Venkat was the mother of all pickles, and we are not speaking about eateries. People of Tamil Nadu will understand what that means. No body is sure as to since when he was a pickle. Whether he became one or he was born one. He had the uncanny ability of making even the most refined dull heads and morons crack a joke on him to everybody's delight.
Strange ability. Unmatched. Unsurpassed.
He was a friend of every one. (Everybody had a right to feel intelligent and jovial, right?) Even those whom he had never met or talked to. One look at him, you will never forget him. Even if you are the the Ghajini (Remember Sammy Jankins?) type. He is the cure for Antigorade Amnesia (Short Term Memory Loss).
Once during the college competition for solo song, he sang the Vande Mataram and National Anthem. Except the title of the song, he got almost everything wrong. Pronounciation, words, and what not. What he got right was a few more friends and Ghajini got cured. He also had a new nick - "Aakho" (abbreviated form of Aarva Kolaru)
Among the very close friends of "Aakho" was "Moalam" (whose real name nobody knew). Moalam was the bigmouthed and loudtalking romantic from another part of the town. He had truck loads of guts, but pea nut sized tact. Though Moalam had a wide variety of bad traits, what was appreciable was his crush on Miss G. He would not even think of any other Miss X in his wildest of dreams. He was sincere. Very sincere. But, despite his truck loads of guts to break a couple of skulls of all ages and sizes, he had only moths and butterflies in every part of the body while trying to convey his "feelings" to Miss G.
Moalam's amplifier and speakers get jammed whenever he sees Miss G.
Well Moalam was not the only guy in the town. There were lot of human containers of moths and butterflies. All of them were sincere. All the different varities of butterflies and bulbs lights up only at the sight of Miss G. Moalam had some competition. It was a game of one upmanship among them. Though none of them had the spine to speak up, all of them thought they were inching closer to her with every extra information garnered by them. Her complete name, date of birth, her regular bus, her class and classmates, where she goes for tuition etc.
What was missing in that list was her house address. Though the area was known, her street and door number were not known. Moalam was yet to make a significant contribution to the information list. He wanted to get that info and prove that he was no "Sotthai" and that he was also a "Aalu".
Enter Aakho, the friend of friends. Where does Aakho come into this equation? Aakho was never in the competition. College was abuzz with his preferences. There was a huge rumour that he was not straight and his preference was jinxed. Then what role does Aakho have in this small little episode? Aakho lived in the same area as Miss G.
So Moalam, Aakho's classmate for seven years made a request to Aakho to find her street and door number, so that he can escort her (well, some hundred yards away) till her bus stop, and then chase it across the cauvery bridge till her school. Friend of Friends accepted to the request. He felt like Sherlock Holmes.
Two days later Aakho had identified the street's name. He was rewarded. Couple of Bondas and Special Tea at Varadhan Kadai. "Venkat, thanks da. I promise I won't call you Aakho any more. Please get me her door number, da. Please. I want to gift her something on her birthday."
"If not for you, then for whom? Consider it done."
Three days later, Aakho was all smiles. He was expecting a bigger treat. A plate of pizzas and a scoop at Baskin Robbins. It cost Moalam more than one hundred bucks. He had pour a bucket full of lies at his home. 'All for you G', he thought. After ensuring that the guy at Baskin Robbins had no further cleaning task with the cup, Aakho's muttered "110 / 247". He was smiling ear to ear. And it was contagious. Moalam was also smiling.
"Strange number, da."
"Yeah, I know. But you know, truth is stranger is fiction." Aakho was repeating something he read somewhere.
"Ennamo da, you speak lot of things which I don't understand." Moalam's mind was already feeling like Usain Bolt having won the Olympic Gold with record time. 'I'll prove what I am to those guys. G is only for me.' He thought with conviction.
After spending the evening with his peers at the Chathiram Bus Stand bragging about his new found information, he patiently composed a letter in Tamizh, oozing with romance. It was poetry of the highest order, he thought. Byron and Shelley would have been humbled. He read, re-read and wrote and re-wrote his poetry in a pink coloured paper using a purple pen, packed it even more neatly. (Cost of these works = Another bucket)
Moalam went to the temple, place the gift box before the god and prayed for some one hour. While sleeping that night, he had all crazy dreams. He was singing and dancing with snows and golden rains in the background ..... with Miss G. He woke up with a new found resolve. There were no more butterflies. He left his home at 5.30 in the morning. Miss G leaves for tuition at 6.30 in the morning. Before she leaves he wanted to leave the box at her door step.
He pedalled across the Cauvery Bridge singing all "Vellai Pura Onru ......", "Unnai Thaanae.... " at maximum voice. He reached her area, found her street. He saw the first gate on the left side of the street. It was numbered 3A. The street was barely 60 metres long, with some 30 houses and couple of empty plots.
Moalam wondered how this street can have 110 houses. He slowly pedalled forward till the end of the street. The maximum number he saw in the street was 12C. He roamed around in that street for ten more minutes. He could not find the house. He moved in to the next street. No positive result.
It felt as if somebody had unplugged the power cable while watching the climax of a movie. It was turning into an anti climax. He saw some people sweeping the entrance for making the patterns (Koalam). He felt as if his dreams were also being sweeped off. He was losing his temper. Neither could he find the house, nor could he find peace. The dogs were continuously barking. And that was drawing attention from other stray dogs as well. Among those dogs, he could only see the smiling face of Aakho. That irritated Moalam even further. After mentally showering some praises on Aakho's father, mother and his ancestors, his picked up a stone and hit a stray dog with all his might.
He had hit the bulls eye (dog's eye, that is). That was probably the ring leader. The followers rallied together, and Moalam was lightened by a few pounds. Moalam made a record dash to the Cauvery Bridge. The town bus used to cross 600 Metre bridge in some 60 second. Moalam made it in 50. Even while chasing G's bus, he had not done that speed.
His mind was filled with anger and frustration. He crossed the Cauvery Bridge once again at 7.30 in the morning and went to Venkat's house, still hounded by the thoughts of those stray dogs. "Your bloody liar. You cheated me. You lousy little moth, Aakho" A long list of abuses followed from one that questions the honour of your sister, to one that equates you to the rectum.
The word cheat hurt Aakho more than anything else, and he retorted "Saeri da, come with me, right now itself. I will show the house. I don't cheat. I don't lie." Aakho led Moalam to the same street. Moalam felt Aakho had not lied. Probably he had not read the number properly.
Aakho stopped the cycle opposite a house numbered 3G. "See, this is the house."
"Where is that number, da? I don't see any of the digits in 110 / 247!"
"See there, the number." Aakho was pointing his fingers at an area where the number written in white paint against a black background. Seeing that Moalam's realized that he will not forget Aakho for another reason. His guts came out in abundance. He ensured that Aakho also never forgot him. After all Aakho's was just another skull.
The number was on the lamp post on the street lamp just outside Miss G's house.