These characters made me laugh everyday. My mornings always started with them.
After I retired I took an oath. An oath to never oversleep. When I was working I always woke at 6am, had bath, plucked flowers from my garden and arranged them for the idols in the pooja room, prayed and then sit for breakfast and leave to work. My oath was to wake at 7am and do all of the above and not go to work. The first day after retirement was bliss. I was happy after the farewell they gave me in my office.
I was staring at the morning paper and smiling as I read through the cartoon section. These characters made me laugh everyday. My mornings always started with them. With little time every morning before leaving to work, I never paid much attention to these comic strips. Now I sit down with the paper after breakfast and read through them. Sometimes in the evenings when there is nothing to watch on TV, I read through them again and smile. Some of these comic strips make me laugh.
I was getting used to my schedule now. I would finish reading the paper and then I would water some potted plants on my balcony. Then I would finish lunch and take a long afternoon nap. I would wake and have tea and then walk my dog for 2 hours. Fudge liked these 2 hours. He would walk with me in style. I knew I was old. But my evening walks was my time to show off my track pants and sunglasses. My daughter in law got them for me when she went to Hawaii. Fudge wore his super strap collar with his name engraved on a silver dollar. He didn't walk like a normal dog after he left the house gates. His walk always changed to a little trot and a stylish one. Fudge was 5 years old.
I was done with my morning paper. I walked to my to get my hat. I used it to escape the sun while I watered the plants. I wore the hat and walked out with the bucket and mug. I usually cleaned the pots when they had old leaves in them. I threw away the old leaves and just when I was about to enter the house I heard a car horn. I turned to see a Grey Civic enter the lane. I stood to see who it could be. Our house was the only one in that lane. The nearby plots were all empty. Any visitor had to be our visitor. I watched as a man in a white dhothi and white shirt enter with his wife. They were both in their mid forties I assumed. They smiled and me and said Namaste. I smiled back and did the same by joining my two hands.
I assumed they were my son's friends so I called out for my daughter in law. Sathya came to the door and welcomed them inside. I walked back to the room to get rid of my hat. I loved it when we had visitors. I had people to talk to. After retirement I spoke to my son, my daughter in law and my grand kids. It was usual daily stuff. When we had visitors people asked me about my retired life and I liked the attention. I walked towards them and seated myself on the sofa. The two of them stood up as I sat and then seated themselves.
Meanwhile Sathya had inquired who they were. They had come to ask my grand daughter's hand in marriage to their son. I was overjoyed. I realized at that moment how old Preethi was and smiled to myself. The man introduced himself and his wife. He told me about their family business and what his son was doing. He handed over his son's horoscope. Matching horoscopes are an important part of South Indian marriages. Sathya asked me to accept it and then received it from my hands. They spoke to me for a long time. Sathya kept the horoscope in the pooja room and prayed and came back to the hall. She offered sintoor to the lady.
They told me how they had heard about Preethi and where they had seen her. After having tea and some snacks they left. I sat on the sofa thinking for a while. I then smiled to myself about how time had flown so quickly. It felt like yesterday when Sathya was carrying Preethi her first born and bringing her inside the house. I remember how I had blessed her as a baby with hundred rupees. Sathya came back to the hall after she sent them off. She spoke to me about their family and then said she would go to the astrologer with my son in two days. I prayed that very instant that Preethi have the best in her life.
After sometime Sathya called me for lunch. I sat at the table and waited for my son to come home. We all had lunch together. We spoke nothing. I had a feeling everyone at the table was thinking how quickly Preethi had grown up.
After my afternoon nap I walked to the hall to find no one. Sathya had left a note for me. It said that she and my son had left to the astrologer and there was tea on the stove. It also said she would pack dinner from outside for tonight. Sathya was always protective about me. I knew to make tea but she made it a point I go through no trouble every time she wasn't home by tea time. She was literally my daughter ever since she married my son.
I heated my tea and sat by the lawn and watched the setting sun. They came back at around 730pm. I waited near the door as he parked the car. Sathya came towards me and told me that the horoscopes had matched. I was overjoyed. I thanked God and walked to the pooja room. Sathya offered me some sweet.
The next three weeks were sheer celebration. There were ceremonies for the families to meet. There was a private dinner party in the house. Preethi had quit her job and was back home. The house was lit up always. It was a very happy month for everyone. Preethi had grown up so much in my eyes in that one month. She usually pressed my feet at the end of the day and spoke to me for an hour or so. Now she was with me throughout the day. We shared our morning paper. She would read the comic strip out and laugh with me. We watched TV together. She cooked different dishes from her cooking class and feed me. My usual answer was 'Amazing' not because it was but because it was her!
The day finally came. The whole family had left to the marriage hall to spend the night there. It was early morning muhurtham. I stayed back at home. Sathya had arranged for a driver for me and some other people who were staying over at home that night. I woke early for Preethi's big day. I woke at 330am. I had a quick shower. I prayed and waited for the others to get ready. I was wearing a new silk dhothi and shirt that Sathya, my son and Preethi picked out for me. I got into the car and we were on our way.
As we crossed the temple at the end of the road, I prayed for a moment. I thought of those days when Preethi was a little girl and we would walk to this temple every Friday. She would hold my hand and never let go. She would get the sintoor from the pujari without standing in line and bring for me as well. With her I never had to stand in line. I thought of the days when we both had sat on the steps of this very temple and had coconut prashad. I smiled at how quickly days had gone by and in a few minutes we were at the marriage hall.
I assumed Sathya was busy getting Preethi ready. The rest of the immediate family was at the reception. I joined them to welcome the guests. I heard Sathya's voice. I saw her talking to a few guests. I called out to her to tell her I had arrived. She walked towards me and told me to get some coffee before the muhurtham. I asked her if Preethi was ready. She said Preethi would be ready in a while. I walked to the dining hall where they served coffee. I spoke to a few guests and walked back to the reception. My friends from my work place had all just arrived. I was having a nice time with them. Family from different places had come clad in their best. They all spoke to me about my retirement. This day couldn't get any better.
It was almost time for the muhurtham. All of us from the reception walked inside the hall. I went straight to the first row to find myself a seat. I watched as the pujari and groom sat by the agni and chanted mantras. I heard a little hustle around and I saw everyone craning their necks towards the flight of stairs. I tried to catch a glimpse and I saw Preethi in her wedding attire accompanied by her friends. She was in a gorgeous red saree and clad with jewelry. She was looking prettier than ever. She had her head down and she walked towards the stage. As she sat near the groom I smiled at her and waved. Preethi looked and me and smiled a shy smile back. I remembered the very smile a few years back. She had worn a saree for the first time. She came walking to my room in an uncomfortable limp to show me what she was wearing. She was trying her mother's saree for her farewell in school.
I smiled to myself. I looked up to see she was smiling back. She had an impish look in her face. I called it her 'Preethi look.' When she knew she was up to something, she had that look. I grinned at her. After a lot of mantras, the pujari signaled for them to stand up. The complete hall stood up along with them and threw the flower petals as the groom tied the knot around Preethi's neck. I could see very little with all the photographers hiding the main stage.
In another five minutes the couple walked towards me and fell on my feet for blessings. I blessed them and hugged the two. Preethi hugged me back and pinched my cheeks the Preethi way. We shared a laughter. A laughter we shared every morning with the cartoon strip. A laughter we shared with every grandpa story of mine. A laughter we shared while the TV rambled. A laughter we shared at the table. A laughter we shared while trimming the lawn. A laughter we shared while she misspelled a word in scrabble. A laughter we shared on the temple steps while eating coconut. A laughter we shared while she taught me how to use the internet. A laughter we shared as we both grew as grand father and grand daughter.
I watched her walk to other guests to get their blessings. I smiled with pride at my grand daughter.
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