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At last the day has come. Everything is packed and I am raring to go. Fond of travel?? You bet I am!!
Get down from the Omni walk up the steps of the railway station. Scores of eyes watching, following your every move. Nothing unusual. That’s the way things are where I live. You don’t have to be a celebrity, you just have to be a woman to have this honor conferred on you. Wait by the main gate, while the Lord and Master goes to get the platform ticket. What?? Oh no, he is not coming. He is still working. Moi has retired. Moi is a free bird now.

A few days back while out driving on one of our various errands, I remarked to the L & M,
“Hey listen… I have taken voluntary retirement…” *smug smile*
A pause while the L & M digests the new information thrown at him out of the blue by his wife with the missing circuits. No preceding intro to the subject. The poor man tries to figure out things. But no worries. Actually he is used to having these ideas/views/ opinions or remarks thrown at him with no prior explanation and knows they are the continuation of thoughts which had been brewing in his wife’s over active brain.
Let me tell you what the thoughts had been at that particular point. The sons (yeah the monkeys) having all grown up and moved away from home (Yaaaaay!!) my time is my own now. Of course I do put aside a major portion of it for the L & M and my gal Goofy. A cousin of mine suggested I work with him. He probably thought I’d welcome the chance to be ‘occupied’ little realizing that I am forever busy even when it appears that I am sitting still staring into space. The L & M too thought it was a wonderful idea. He probably thought that would mean less of ‘Let’s go visit some place or other’ from moi. On my part, I was horror struck. OMG. I had been so looking forward to the sons sprouting wings and flying away so as to relax and do my own thing and here were people (and the L & M in the gang too Grrrr…..) thinking I would want to take up WORK, as in work done by a career woman. No way. I was done with working. I wanted retirement. Ahh, you think homemaker’s don’t need retirement, only those working outside do?? Think again!! I decided I better let the L & M know, that I was planning on taking VRS. That’s when I said,
“Hey listen… I have taken voluntary retirement…” *smug smile*

The L & M cleared his throat.
“Okay..” he said and paused dramatically before continuing. “There is one thing though…”
I looked at him questioningly.
“You better tell me what all those duties are from which you are taking voluntary retirement. I have got to find a replacement, put an ad in the local paper for a temporary one and then decide whether to make the appointment permanent you know…..” he said trying to keep a straight face.
“Hahahahaha!!” I went. “Sure I will tell you!” *faltering smile*
So don’t ye all be surprised if you see an ad in the newspaper asking for a replacement for moi. *gulp*

Now lets get back to the free bird off on a holiday by herself. The L & M who is yet to retire as he WANTS to work unlike moi, is at the railway station to see off his wife like any dutiful husband would. Soon, the L & M comes back, the platform ticket duly purchased and we walk to the platform to board the train. Eyes following your every move. You look left, right, ahead or behind, you will catch at least a pair of them on you.
In the train and off. Brother, sister, here I come. Good company. All from God’s own country. No eyes at close quarters. Wow!! Nice, isn’t it??
Rajkot. Sister in law at the station to receive moi. Drive home. Lots of yak yak yakkety yak. Go for walks, shopping, a trip to the Rotary Dolls Museum. Where are the eyes?? Why no eyes?? OMG. Is something wrong with me?? Perhaps I am no longer young enough for the eyes. Oh no, I have grown old!! Nobody is even looking at me now!! Sniff sniff.
Baroda. Sister at the railway station. More shopping, outings and visits. No eyes following your every move. I have really grown old and ugly. Sob sob. Rushing off to buy a cake in the New Year Eve rush. The roads are full of celebrating crowds. Involuntarily and out of sheer habit, I watch my back (and front) taking care of all sensitive spots of interest to unscrupulous elements in the crowd. OMG, nobody is even trying to brush against me. Is this for real?? Totally demoralized now. I really really am old. Sigh. You can forget about eyes from now on, I tell myself. You really are a free bird in every sense. No need to worry about eyes (or hands or even feet)!! I forget all about eyes (hands and feet too!) relax and enjoy myself in my new found freedom.
Time is up. Holiday over. The day for the Return of the Wandering Light arrives. Good company again in the train. All from Jaipur, wanting to know of Kerala, its cuisine, coconut trees, chutney, dosa, iddli et al.
Early morn, the train pulls into Ernakulam South railway station. Wonder of wonders, the train is before time. The L & M is waiting as I alight. Now what’s that niggly strange sort of feeling I am getting?? Oops, the EYES are back!! Hmm… and its only 4-30 a.m.!!
Catch the next train to the capital city. Once again the all familiar feeling. Gosh, the eyes are back with a vengeance!! New discovery: Hey, I am not old, nor am I ugly!! Alight at Trivandrum Central, join the milling crowd all trying to make it to the exit in good time though at a crawl. Trying to keep up with the L & M’s long strides. More eyes that stare and stare…. A hand brushing too close for comfort. A body pushing closer. A shoulder that rams into you for no apparent reason. When you look up a knowing smile. If you concentrate you can almost see the tongue hanging out and hear the panting and see the dripping saliva too. Wolves in human clothing. Realization hits in a flash as self esteem soars (sic!)
Welcome back. You are now in Kerala. God’s own country and hey, I am desirable after all!!

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This is not to say that ‘wolves in human clothing do not exist at other places. They do of course. But as someone who has moved all over India and stayed in various places, I find this syndrome of ‘having nothing to do but stare at women not even bothering to disguise the lust in their eyes’ is special to my own state. It is the rule, not the exception. You have to live here to know the difference. When you move out to other places, you really get a complex and start wondering if something is wrong with yourself.

*        *       *

I had another welcome awaiting me. She was sleeping lost to doggie dreams and didn’t even hear me tip-toe up to her (BTW my cousin and family have been taking care of her for the past week, bless them!). I stroked her gently on her tummy and she lifted her head sleepily, got a whiff of Mommy scent and quickly pulled herself up (she is getting old at 12 years of age, sigh) wagging her tail and licking me. But all her more vociferous show of affection and the choicest of yelps were reserved exclusively for the L & M. Grrrr…..

Aww, but she is still my baby!!