With this story, I plead guilty to breaking the most basic, key rule of blogging: keep it short. I beg your indulgence, and hope you enjoy it anyway.
To all of you who celebrate it, happy Thanksgiving. To those of you who don't, take heart, the weekend is just around the corner. Onto the story...
Ever since I was a small boy, I have been bombarded by this refrain from my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors and random visitors to my home: If you don’t watch it, you will end up like your Great-Uncle Chaami.
I am an easy-going sort of person. I am happy where I am, quite content to plod along the same rutted route, avoiding anything new, anything challenging, anything that might take me away from my simple comfort zone. If I could somehow spend my days not doing anything at all and avoid going to that wretched place that is my office, I would be even happier. However, my family and that interfering lot who call themselves my well-wishers just will not let me be. This has been the story of my life.
As a child, I looked upon those who fought fiercely to be the class toppers with a detached awe. Their agony over losing one mark, their despair at not being chosen class leader, their plunge into utter despondency and dejection over mere trivia, astonished and amazed me. What difference did it make? Who cared? As long as I somehow scraped along from grade to grade, I was satisfied. My family did not take this point of view. They tried every means to motivate me and instill some ambition and higher ideals in me. From my father, I got regular thrashings with the cane. From my mother, tears, pleading, bribes of my favourite sweets, and visits to distant temples known to cure cases like mine. From my uncles and grandfathers, endless lectures about my family lineage of hardworking geniuses who sacrificed so much that I had no appreciation of…… And from all of them, tales of Great-Uncle Chaami.
I have heard the story of Great-Uncle Chaami so many times that I actually remember quite a lot of it. Most times, when I know a lecture is brewing or a Great-Uncle Chaami tale is coming my way, I go into my day-dreaming mode. Only very close observers will notice that I am not really paying attention to what is being said. The slightest droop to my mouth, a gossamer-light glaze in my eyes – these are the only giveaways. I am in a cocoon of sunny thoughts, a place of no hurry and worry. As if from a faraway land, words from the lecture swirl lazily around me, the drone lulling me further into my own world. I have to be careful not to fall asleep. I know the consequence of that. The cane will follow, swift and stinging, shattering fragments of my dream world around me.
What was I saying? Oh yes, about Great-Uncle Chaami. Maybe there is something to this drill-and-endlessly-repeat method that is so condemned today. At some point, the incessant chatter impresses itself on the brain, and you realize that you remember things that you least expect to. I have digressed enough. From piecing together what I think I heard, let me tell you about this black sheep of my family.
Great-Uncle Chaami was born into a very wealthy home in the deep south of India. His family owned many acres of banana and coconut plantations, as well as several rice paddy fields. Chaami’s childhood was idyllic. He lived in a large, rambling house nestled in the verdant landscape. His grandfather, the head of the household, ruled over a large and noisy clan of uncles and aunts, cousins, the obligatory widow, and a revolving door of visiting relatives. Duties were drawn along strictly traditional lines. The women, headed by Chaami’s energetic grandmother, took care of the housework and the children. They also tended to several goats and a buffalo, which provided fresh milk for the family. Chaami’s father and grandfather were doctors, widely respected in the area. It seemed they could cure anything. Every morning, long lines of people from Chaami’s and surrounding villages waited patiently in the hot sun, confident that the Doctor Ayyas would prescribe a way out of their misery. Chaami’s uncles looked after the fields and plantations, an ample source of income.
The family wanted for nothing. They were comfortably off, they were well-liked and respected, and they had plenty of help around the house. Chaami and his cousins were sent to the local school where the headmaster, a devoted and eternally grateful patient of the Doctor Ayyas (they had cured him of his impotence) ensured that the entire clan received top grades in their classes. This was the era of old-fashioned child-rearing. A simple thrashing (there was always an uncle around to administer it) or a visit to the temple were considered adequate ways of dealing with any problems. Lost in the chaos that was always present in his home, Chaami grew up without anyone paying particular heed to him or any special personality traits.
Chaami finished school, and the time came for him to go to college. Nobody sat down with him and asked him what he would like to study. Nobody quite knew what his strengths were, or where his interests lay. It was doubtful that even Chaami knew any of this, since self-analysis was not the order of the day. His father and grandfather were doctors. His grandfather was getting old, and was finding it difficult to manage his practice. It was logical therefore, that Chaami should study to become a doctor. The timing would be perfect. Chaami’s grandfather could retire once Chaami graduated, and then Chaami and his father could continue the practice. His grandfather was a good friend of the head of the medical college in the nearest big city, and admission for Chaami was never in question.
Once in medical college however, Chaami had to perform. This was no longer like his school where Chaami and his cousins were swept along from grade to grade. The head of the medical college, a doctor himself, had no need for any miracle cures from the Doctor Ayyas, and hence, no sense of obligation to push Chaami along. Besides, he was a conscientious man, aware of building and maintaining the reputation of his college. It was very simple and straightforward. If you wanted to graduate as a doctor, you had to know your stuff. And to show that you knew your stuff, you had to pass your exams – lots of exams. To pass your exams, you had to study a lot.
So, for the first time in his life, Chaami had to work hard. And he discovered that he did not like to work hard. It went completely against his nature. Never mind that he came from a long line of hard-working doctors. His was a well-respected Brahmin family, where education was not only expected of its male members, but was also considered almost holy. Chaami had good role models growing up. His grandfather, father and uncles were all serious, hard-working and responsible men. Clearly, none of this had rubbed off on Chaami. Alone, and away from the boisterous pandemonium of his home, he realized some truths about himself. He was not serious, hard-working, or responsible. He did not like medicine. He did like having a good time. It was far nicer to sleep in and not attend classes. Consequences? He had never faced them in his life. A few weeks into medical college, he faced his first consequence. He got a FAIL in his first test. Did it bother him? Not in the least. He was dimly aware that his family would not take kindly to his performance, but it made not a whit of difference to him.
A whole book could be written about Chaami’s misadventures at the medical college. I do not want to bore you with the details, since you will find much of it quite repetitive. And to tell you the truth, I’m not really sure I remember a lot of it, since this was the part where I was deepest into my daydream. So, let me jump ahead to the day when Chaami’s father arrived at the medical college to take Chaami back home. A greater contrast in demeanors will be hard to find. Imagine this. Chaami and his father, walking to the railway station, to take the train back to their village. Chaami’s father, walking ramrod straight with brisk, crisp steps, his face grim and furious. His shirt is stiffly starched, and his dhoti highlights the severe lines of his figure. He looks straight ahead, his long, black coat flapping a little in the breeze. Next to him walks Chaami. Walks? Where his father walks straight and briskly, Chaami, who is quite rotund, walks slowly, dragging his feet. His dhoti and shirt have not seen a dhobi in some time. He is seemingly unconcerned by the circumstances. He looks around him, enjoying the mild winter weather, the tickle of a breeze on his face. Nothing about him suggests that he is a man in disgrace, that he has brought shame to his whole family.
Back at home, Chaami was lectured, hectored, scolded, shouted at, prayed for, cried for, pleaded at, begged…. Anywhere he went, there was an uncle or an aunt or a parent or grandparent, bombarding him with….. what, exactly, Chaami did not know, for he paid scant attention to what was being said. He was happy to be back at home, where all his comforts were taken care of. Sure, he was pestered to help his uncles with their work, but he still needed time for his health to recover from those nightmarish days at the medical college.
Many months passed. Chaami was the despair of his family. He spent his entire day lolling about in a crumpled dhoti, eating vast quantities of whatever was prepared. His favourite spot was the front veranda which had an ancient teak-wood swing. Here Chaami sat (when he was not eating) swinging gently, a contented look upon his face. He appeared oblivious to the effect of his behaviour on his family. Things gradually got worse. Chaami was a young man, after all, and young men enjoy the company of friends. Unfortunately, the group of friends Chaami hung around with was not the type his family approved of. A more lazy, unmotivated, loud and boorish group of young men would be hard to find. One could be charitable and call them happy-go-lucky and good-natured, but Chaami’s family was not inclined to be charitable. Like a moth drawn to a flame, Chaami could not resist the pull of these friends. All of them shared a similar philosophy that life was to be enjoyed, that fun was paramount, and that hard work was a bore and a waste of time.
A family meeting was held to decide what to do about Chaami. The meeting was loud and acrimonious. The wails of the womenfolk mingled with angry rumbles from the men. There was a distinct split between the men and the women about how the Chaami situation should be dealt with.
There was a temple, said Chaami’s grandmother, amidst vigorous nodding from his mother and aunts, just a few hours away by train, where it was said that Lord Venkateswara, the main deity, had extraordinary powers. One had only to roll around the temple twenty two times while chanting his name, to invoke those powers. Why, only last year, neighbour Ranganatha’s daughter-in-law had gone there, and within two months she had conceived. She was the one who had been unable to bear a child for the first four years of her married life.
Nonsense, said Chaami’s grandfather. Ranganatha brought her to me in private last year, and I gave her some tablets which helped her to conceive. It had nothing to do with your Lord Venkateswara!
An aunt chipped in, shrill and indignant. She had been sending money to that very temple every year for a special prayer to be said for her children to do well in their exams, and see how well it worked!
Oh, wailed Chaami’s mother, could you not have sent something for my Chaami as well! What did I do in my past life that such a thing is happening to me!
Be quiet, thundered Chaami’s father. You have coddled and spoiled him all his life, which is why he is like this.
The oldest uncle finally brought the meeting to order. He had the benefit of a booming voice, which he made use of now. I know what will set him right, he said, we should get Chaami married!
The announcement brought the wails and shouts to an immediate end. Everybody sat up, hope dawning on their faces. All heads turned towards Chaami’s grandfather, waiting for his blessing and go-ahead for this endeavour. Chaami’s grandfather nodded slowly and thoughtfully. Yes, this made a lot of sense. A wife might succeed where the rest of the family had failed.
The silence was broken right away as everybody spoke up. Nagercoil Srinivasan’s daughter, declared Chaami’s grandmother. She would be perfect for Chaami. Excellent family, and the girl was said to be good-natured and an accomplished singer.
No, no, no, said an uncle. That girl was too young. Chaami would need someone more mature, if she was to drill any sense into his head. Bharati Street Ramanathan’s daughter would set Chaami right.
Chaami’s mother shrieked at this suggestion. That girl! She is almost old enough to be my sister! And have you seen her? Dark as a buffalo! No wonder she is still unmarried! How could you think of that ugly hag for my Chaami!
Once again the oldest uncle calmed everyone down. There was no need to rush into anything right away. Everybody could write down a list of possible girls for Chaami, the family would put the word out, and surely a good match would be found soon.
Once again, my mind blurs on the details. Srinivasan’s daughter, Ramanathan’s daughter, Sundaram’s niece, I cannot keep all these names straight. You know how mothers are. They get immersed in all sorts of intricate details that are of no relevance whatsoever. They will talk about what happened to Muthu Periappa’s wife’s sister’s daughter-in-law’s neighbour the day that Sudha Chithi’s mother’s neighbour’s uncle’s son got married, unraveling these impossible relationships with such effortless ease. My mind shuts down the minute I hear Muthu Periappa’s name. Of course, I pay the price for this later, when I am not scolded for remembering anything, after I have been told so many times! By now, I am so used to this that it does not bother me at all… Look at me, accusing my mother of rambling, and I here I am doing the same!
Back to my Great-Uncle Chaami and his wedding. I do recall two things. One is that Chaami was blissfully unaware of the various goings-on in his home, that furious negotiations were taking place to seal his fate. The other is that he married someone called Sumathi. I’m afraid I cannot tell you whose daughter she is, or who’s neighbour. If I ask my mother that, she will surely box my ears even though I am a grown man now, for she has told me this at least half a dozen times. Anyway, it makes no difference to my story.
With unerring wifely instinct, Sumathi sized up Chaami right away. She knew that she had her work cut out for her. With swift, ruthless strikes, she attacked his shortcomings. First to go was his group of good-for-nothing friends. Chaami was forbidden from having anything further to do with them. Next he was made to quit smoking. Cold turkey, as they say nowadays. Chaami had no nicotine patch or gum or spray, no tender hand-holding, absolutely nothing to help him deal with the misery of withdrawal. That was not all, however. The cruelest blow was yet to come. While Chaami was still reeling from the loss of his beloved friends and cigarettes, he was put on a weight-loss regimen. In many ways, Sumathi was way ahead of her times. She knew that ghee and oil were fattening, that the amount of rice Chaami ate in one meal could be comfortably consumed in one week, that sweets and fried snacks, so beloved by everyone, were a no-no in a healthy diet. So Chaami was put on a grim and cheerless fare of steamed and bland vegetables and idlis. And then she turned to working on his mind and attitude. Perhaps you have already got this sense about Sumathi, but she did not believe in soft treatment or what they call positive motivation these days. Oh, no. She was….. How can I put it nicely… oh, all right, I’ll just say it. She was a nag. A shrew. A termagant. She was well-meaning, no doubt, and had the best of intentions, but surely someone should have stepped in and curbed her. Chaami was already in a fragile and vulnerable state, and now he was taunted, scolded and harassed, goaded…. You get the idea. Poor Chaami! My heart goes out to the man. I sometimes imagine myself in his position, and shudder at the thought.
You might wonder, how was all this received? The family, initially at least, was thrilled. They could not praise Sumathi enough. The aunt who made this marriage happen made it a point to remind everyone that it was her connections that brought about this miracle match. Not to be left out, the oldest uncle did his bit to keep everybody’s memory fresh that it was his suggestion to get Chaami married. And Chaami? Life is never simple, is it? You do what you think is right, do what you can to push someone down the correct path (let’s not stop to argue about what, exactly, is the correct path) and then you sit back and wait for everything to fall into place, as you think it should.
I think you can guess where this is going. In a nutshell, Sumathi’s methods did not have the desired effect. Chaami did not shape up. He did not turn magically into an enthusiastic member of the working classes. Yes, he did lose weight, but along with that, his spirit shrank as well. His cheerfulness, his happy-go-lucky nature, the very essence of Chaaminess, drained away, and left behind a sullen shell. In the beginning, he coped by using his usual method of refusing to take any of this seriously, and treating it like a big joke. But Sumathi was made of sterner stuff than his mother, grandmother and aunts. She just turned up the volume on the scolding and nagging. Chaami was not a fighter. His was too placid and easy-going a personality . He quietly withdrew into himself and refused to talk to anyone. He ate his fatless and tasteless meals quietly, and he spent the rest of his day swinging quietly on the old teakwood swing on the veranda. He stopped cracking his jokes. He stopped sneaking into the kitchen for a freshly fried vadai. He stopped smiling. He stopped talking. And still Sumathi did not give up. It infuriated her to see her husband doing nothing, and this intensified her shrew-like qualities. She began to find fault with the other members of the household, particularly her mother-in-law and the aunt who helped to arrange her marriage to this good-for-nothing loser. Peace and harmony, which always hang by the thinnest of threads in a joint-family household, snapped. The details are too depressing to describe here. Let me fast-forward to a few decades later.
Much of the beautiful ancestral lands and fields of Chaami’s family had been seized by the government in a bitter and long-drawn out dispute. Most of the rest had to be sold to developers who tore the old house to the ground, and razed the land clean of the paddies, coconuts and bananas. A concrete shopping center, painted a lurid shade of pink, came up where the house once stood, and the banana and coconut groves now held an apartment complex. Chaami’s grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts had passed on. Most of his cousins had scattered to assorted parts of India and the world.
Chaami had never worked, and this was not from a lack of offers from his uncles and cousins. He and Sumathi, locked together in a childless and joyless marriage, lived in a small flat in the apartment complex. This was his inheritance and legacy. This tiny, dark, stain-walled apartment was his sole possession in the world. Inside, a sagging bed, a crooked table and a few chairs only emphasized the bareness of the place. They had been given to him by one of his cousins. Another cousin who had immigrated to Australia sent him a small sum of money every month, on which they scraped by. Sumathi supplemented this by undertaking simple tailoring jobs for the residents of the apartment complex. Chaami retreated deep into his shell and refused to come out of it. With every death, with every new legal battle, he detached himself further and further from the world. He was a broken man. Then Sumathi passed away as well. There was no one to cook for Chaami or tend to his basic needs. He was put in an old people’s home in a nearby city, where he lived in a silent and uncommunicative world of his own.
So, now, you have heard it too, the tale of Great-Uncle Chaami. The fable of what happens to people who are lazy and lack ambition. The moral of the perils of the easy road. In every version of the story, Chaami was wholly blamed for the path his life took. Here was a man who had everything going for him, and yet squandered away everything through sheer laziness and lack of interest. As I grew older and occasionally pondered the whole sad mess, I began to feel that Great-Uncle Chaami had been unfairly maligned. There was surely something more to it than mere laziness.
You know, I am aware of more than my family gives me credit for. The study of human nature is something I find very fascinating and I like to read anything I can find on it. They even have a name for it – psychology. So many people pooh-pooh it and say it is a bunch of hogwash, but I completely disagree. One day some months back, I was reading an article in Femina (yes, I know, I know, it is a woman’s magazine, but it does have interesting articles – you should try it, really) which made me sit up. “Do you feel hopeless, uninterested in life, unable to cope, sad and useless?” It asked. “If you experience these feelings all or most of the time, you might be suffering from depression. And this is something you can get help for.” I read on, engrossed. The entire article may well have been about Great-Uncle Chaami.
After I read the article, I sat, lost in thought for a long time. Normally, as I have mentioned earlier, I am an extremely easy-going sort. Nothing really bothers or excites me. I read once that there are different personality types called Type A and Type B. I suppose I am an extreme version of Type B. This time, however, I felt different. I felt restless and disturbed. Something was gnawing at me. I got up and paced around. I thought about Great-Uncle Chaami and his life. I thought about the article. Then, I knew what I had to do. I had to visit Great-Uncle Chaami in his old people’s home. I had to help him.
If I remember right, I had met Great-Uncle Chaami only twice, both times in his miserable, dingy little flat. The first visit was when I was a boy of about seven, when my parents took me on a vacation to see our ancestral lands. I saw it all – the hideous shopping plaza, the depressing apartment complex, the flat, brown landscape. It was impossible to imagine that this was all green at one time. A fresh round of Great-Uncle Chaami stories ensued, followed by a visit to his apartment. I don’t recall much of that visit, except for an all-pervasive odor of urine, and my mother glaring at me for wrinkling my nose and looking bored. No memory lingers of Chaami and Sumathi from that visit. The next time I saw him was when his wife, Sumathi, died. This must have been, oh, about ten years back. I was a sullen seventeen year old then, resentful of having to accompany my mother to the village. I do remember Great-Uncle Chaami from that time. He was sitting on a chair that sagged almost to the floor, staring vacantly out of a window. He was oblivious to the wailing and commotion around him. I was brought to stand in front of him and pay my respects, but I could have been standing in front of the wall for all the notice he took of me. I was glad when we finally left.
So, as I was saying, I decided to look up Great-Uncle Chaami. With a growing sense of anticipation and excitement, I set out to visit him one Saturday morning. Normally, on a Saturday, I am dead to the world until around noon, when I wake up and potter around for a while, before collapsing into a nap later in the afternoon. This time, I was up and ready by seven o’clock in the morning, and I must say, it did have its advantages. The air was fresh and cool, and my city was quiet without the usual ear-splitting honking of cars stuck in snarled traffic. I was going to drive to Great-Uncle Chaami’s city, and it would take me about two hours to get there. I had no real plan or idea of what I would actually do once I got there, but it is not in my nature to worry about things I cannot control.
Once I reached the old people’s home, it took all my charm to persuade the head nurse to allow me to see Great-Uncle Chaami. Reams of rules were spouted forth to explain why I could not see him. It was not regular visiting time. He had to have his bath and breakfast first. The supervising nurse was not allowed to leave her station to accompany me. I was not on his list of allowed visitors. (Who was??) My footwear was of a type not on the approved footwear list (when, incredulous, I queried the nurse about this, she replied archly that they were too squeaky and noisy, that they could upset and disturb those patients with fragile and sensitive nerves). It is easy to talk one’s way around such rules, and not too long after, I was following the supervising nurse into Great-Uncle Chaami’s room.
Needless to say, he displayed no interest in me or my arrival. He continued to stare out of the window, where the view was of the wall of the neighboring building. I pulled up a chair next to him and chattered away. I filled him in on all the family gossip (surprising myself with how much I had actually retained), I told him about my crashing bore of a job as an accountant, I told him about the pressure from my parents to marry a nice girl and settle down. Chaami gave no sign that he was paying any heed to anything I was saying, but I continued on nevertheless. It felt good to unburden myself to an uncritical audience. One hour later, the supervising nurse came bustling into the room, scolding me for overstaying my time. I bid an unacknowledged farewell to Great-Uncle Chaami and left.
After that, I headed out to a nearby park and sat on one of the benches. A vague sense of let-down and disappointment weighed me down. I suppose that at the back of my mind, I was hoping for some sort of a miracle, that the tips from that pop-psychology article would break through Great-Uncle Chaami’s wall of sadness and make everything alright again. I realized I was being overly optimistic and ridiculously simplistic. Feeling gloomy and useless, I drifted into a long, long daydream. When I finally jerked myself out of it, I gave myself a little talking-to. How could I give up so easily! Of course Great-Uncle Chaami could be helped. I would do whatever it took. I turned back to the old people’s home.
My reception there was not what you would call warm. I guess my charm is of the sort that wears out rapidly on people. I dug in my heels, and said I would not leave until I could speak to the head doctor of the place. The head doctor, Dr. Gururaj, contrary to what I expected, came down readily enough when he was paged. I liked what I saw. He was quite young, and seemed to be an energetic sort. I sat down with him on the hard lobby sofa and told him what I thought was wrong with Great-Uncle Chaami, and what could be done to help. I used all the latest psychiatric and therapeutic terms (carefully memorized from the Femina article) and I think that impressed Dr. Gururaj, for he leaned forward and paid close attention to what I was saying.
He then told me a little bit about himself and the old people’s home. The home had come under new management, and he had been newly appointed. He was eager to bring modern ideas and technology to the place. The old lot was a disgrace, ran the place with the barest minimum of effort, what could kindly be called benign neglect, and more truthfully called bordering-on-the-criminal. There were so many residents of the home who could benefit from the latest medical advances, and Dr. Gururaj was raring to go. He promised to get a specialist to check up Great-Uncle Chaami, and he promised to keep in touch with me.
I returned home, my whole being abuzz. It felt good, you know, doing something constructive, and it even made my week at the office more bearable. It was a busy period at work, and, to tell you the truth, I slipped a bit on my resolve to visit Great-Uncle Chaami every Saturday. I needed that sleep! Dr. Gururaj was as good as his word, and kept me regularly updated. It seemed that Chaami was being treated with some medication as well as with regular counseling sessions, and was slowly but surely improving. He was beginning to open up and talk, and take an interest in his surroundings. Good news! Then one day, I got a message from Dr. Gururaj. Great-Uncle Chaami was asking to see me! He actually asked to see me!
So, that Saturday, I was up bright and early again, and drove (well past the speed limit, I must confess) to the old people’s home. A new head nurse met me, and escorted me up to Great-Uncle Chaami’s room. He was obviously expecting me, for he was sitting facing the door. And he held out his arms, and the faintest flicker of a smile brightened his eyes. Oh, man, you know I am not the emotional sort, but I had to gulp back something that was tightening my throat and blink rapidly a few times. He indicated a chair next to him and asked me to sit down. And we talked. Or, rather, I talked, and he actually listened, and asked a question or two. And you know something? He remembered those bits of gossip I had given him the last time I met him, when he did not seem to be paying attention at all, and asked me for updates. He enquired after my parents. And, and I swear I glimpsed a twinkle in his eyes when he said this, he asked me when I was going to get married and settle down! The rascal!
Slowly but steadily, Great-Uncle Chaami re-entered the world, his sense of humor quite intact after so many years of disuse. In him I found a kindred spirit. Over the months, as Chaami got better, we spent many a Saturday together, and you would not have guessed at the gap in our ages. Eighty-five year old Great-Uncle Chaami and twenty-eight year old me, laughing together like children. I took him to the park and to restaurants, and one long weekend, I drove with him to his old village, where he gazed silently at the shopping plaza and apartment complex. He did not say anything then, and I think he was reliving unpleasant memories. I was afraid he would have some sort of a setback, but no, he was back to his joking and laughing once we left the place.
Don’t you love happy endings? Well, Great-Uncle Chaami deserves some happiness in his twilight years, doesn’t he? And oh, as I wind down my story, I must come clean and tell you one last thing. Remember I mentioned that working in my office became more bearable? Actually, there is more than one reason for that. I cannot believe I am blushing as I say this, but there is this awfully nice girl who has joined, who sits in the cubicle next to mine. Some weeks back, (with much goading from Great-Uncle Chaami) I plucked up the courage to ask her out for a movie. After that, we have gone out a few times, and I have told my parents about her, and they are beside themselves with joy. Mallika is her name, and I cannot wait for her to meet Great-Uncle Chaami. I am sure they will get along famously. She has already said that I need to lose weight and stop smoking, and I am so under her spell that I am happily obeying.
We plan to get married next year. Who knows what life will bring, but with Mallika and my kindred soul Great-Uncle Chaami, I can tackle anything. I know one thing for certain, though. If I do have a son, I am going to name him Chaami.