This is dedicated, with tongue firmly in cheek, to my very own Ejamanar (note: Ejamanar, in colloquial Tamil, means Lord of the Household or something to that effect)
The Cast of Characters
Ejamanar: The Lord and Master of the Ejamanar household in New York, cut from the traditional lord and master mold. He takes his head of the household duties and responsibilities very seriously. Unfortunately, the rest of his family does not. Undeterred by this 21st century attitude to his 19th century ideals, Ejamanar never falters in his determination to keep his family, particularly his two children, firmly under his thumb and watchful eye. The children, however, under the strong influence of the Ejamanar genes (Ejamanar was notoriously rebellious and independent-thinking as an adolescent) pay scant heed to his remonstrations about the abundance of evil lurking in innocent corners. Ejamanar is an ardent exercise freak, profoundly scornful of “leftists” and a nightmarish driver who believes that any other vehicle on the street is superfluous and needs to come within an inch of being eliminated.
Mrs. Ejamanar: An independent thinker herself, at her most sullen and untalkative early in the morning, at the very time that her husband is at his most chipper and communicative. The current manifestation of her independent thinking is the fusion food she subjects her family to. Fearful of her unpredictable temper, they swallow her culinary concoctions in silence.
Thilakavathi: The Ejamanars’ oldest child. She has her father firmly wrapped around her little finger. She is 18 years old, a rabid rap music fan, and enjoys wandering around the city at all odd hours. (A clarification: Ejamanar considers any hour an odd hour; Thilakavathi feels all hours are created equal, and are fair game for her peregrinations.) Father and daughter have argued endlessly about this; neither has budged an inch from their respective positions. Of late, Ejamanar has taken to cunningly concealing his message and moral in long-winded anecdotes, which miss their target by a wide margin.
Chokkalingam: The Ejamanar Son and Heir. Fifteen years old, the abiding passion of his life is basketball, not academics, to his father’s never ending chagrin and anguish. Ejamanar’s repeated and enthusiastic efforts to switch his son’s passion to the wonders of the capitalist economic system have fallen on deaf ears.
Ravanan, Head Clerk of The Ejamanar Corporation.
Cheran, Chozhan and Pandian: Ejamanar’s best friends and fellow scorners of leftists.
5am. At home
When the alarm started its brisk, steady beep, it was still inky-black outside. New York was barely stirring awake. At home, it was utterly still. Ejamanar woke up and padded softly to the bathroom, where for the next hour, he scanned one gruesome news item after another. Shoot-out on 23rd Street….I-Pod crimes on the rise in the city…. Drug-dealers targeting young boys….. Rash of date-rape drug attempts………. What was the city coming to? He would have to have to have another talk with Thilakavathi and Chokkalingam. They were entirely too casual about the dangers that surrounded them. Every day he painstakingly sketched out for them the perils that lay awaiting them, every day he laid out in elaborate detail the steps they would have to take to thwart those perils……and every day, they rolled their eyes and marched right into the thicket of drug-dealers and crazed drivers and I-Pod thieves and rapists and scam-artists and terrorists and who knew what else, somehow, miraculously, emerging unscathed. “One day,” Ejamanar thought darkly, “one day the Real World will strike and then they won’t laugh at me any more.”
6am. Outside the gym
A small band of dedicated exercisers had gathered outside the gym’s entrance. Polite conversation was a mere mask of civility over their fiercely competitive instincts. The Manager was spotted approaching, and there was a subtle, but unmistakable jostling for position. Ejamanar was at the head. Hah! He had managed to get ahead of that fat fool from Building 10 who thought that Treadmill 3 was his personal property. What was the point, anyway, he had been coming to the gym for at least a year now, and his jowls had only got jowlier, and his paunch, jigglier. Once the door was unlocked, there was a sprint to the machines (the fat fool was left in the dust) and Ejamanar started his grueling routine on Treadmill 3. The fat fool glowered at him from Treadmill 1.
7am. Back at home
The house was stirring awake. Mrs. Ejamanar was up. Ejamanar greeted her cheerily, but she merely gave him a dirty look and did not reply. She seemed to be in one of her silent bad moods, who knew what brought those on. They seemed to be happening more often these days. Ejamanar headed for the kitchen where he wrestled with the giant coffee machine. The steamer shrieked shrilly, while coffee gurgled and hissed loudly through the innards of the machine. The bathroom door banged shut. That would be Thilakavathi, registering her annoyance with the coffee machine. The day was proceeding normally. Aahh…that was a good cup of coffee.
7.30am. Still at home
Chokkalingam had been woken up. Bleary-eyed, he staggered to the bathroom, his progress suggesting a stiff struggle through a raging snow-storm. “Good morning, Chokka!” Ejamanar greeted him, slapping him heartily on the back. Chokkalingam jerked upright for a moment, and then slumped back. “Urrr,” he grunted, and slammed the bathroom door. “DON’T BANG THE DOOR!” came a muffled yell from Thilakavathi’s room. While Chokkalingam showered, Mrs. Ejamanar banged about in the kitchen, preparing breakfast. There was a lot of early morning banging in this house. Chokkalingam emerged, marginally more coherent and alert. While he got ready, Ejamanar spoke to him about all the hazards he could face that day. He told him about the shoot-out and the I-Pod thieves and the drug-dealers and, oh, yes, someone in the gym had been talking about convicted killers taking jobs in a neighboring store. He spelled out the risks of walking on the streets and breathing the air which might be contaminated with lethal chemicals. He got increasingly alarmed as he continued. Maybe a move to New Zealand was indicated.
“Eh?” said Chokkalingam, unscrewing one I-Pod earphone bud from his ear. “Were you saying something?”
Ejamanar rolled his eyes and walked out.
9am. In the offices of The Ejamanar Corporation
Ejamanar frowned, reading the memo from Ravanan. Really, his English was atrocious at times. Today’s memo was one of his more ridiculous efforts. “Ravanan!” he bellowed into the phone. “Can you come to my office for a moment?”
Ravanan walked in, sucking in his stomach. He, along with the rest of the accounting department, had been mercilessly lectured by Ejamanar on their cholesterol, blood-pressure and sugar levels. They had been enrolled in gyms and were sternly told that strolling at 2mph was for morons and idiots. In restaurants, they were to eat grilled fish and avoid dessert. Ravanan had been progressing marvelously for four weeks, and then, rent by the unrelenting pangs of hunger, had succumbed. It was complete surrender. Slowly but surely, the pounds were creeping back, and Ejamanar, who missed nothing, would surely notice and comment on it.
Ejamanar tossed the memo at him, irritation and exasperation writ large on his face.
“How do you expect any respect from Vadivelan if you write nonsense like this?”
Ravanan squinted at the memo. Slowly he released his stomach as he tried to figure out what the problem could be. Ejamanar’s eyes swooped to the offending area.
“Have you stopped your exercise?” he barked.
Ponderously, Ravanan began to explain how his wife and mother were on the warpath and…..but Ejamanar had no patience for Ravanan’s domestic dramas.
“Rewrite this memo so that it looks less like something from an illiterate from the Calcutta bazaar!”
Ravanan, still unenlightened about what was wrong with the memo, left. Hopefully Tamilarasi would set it right for him.
1pm. Ejamanar’s office, The Ejamanar Corporation
Ejamanar stretched back in his chair, satisfied. Those idiots in the Head Office had been taught their lesson, Ejamanar Corp. numbers were looking good, and Ravanan had managed an amazing transformation of his memo. For the past half an hour, he had been engaged in an invigorating volley of e-mails from Cheran, Chozhan and Pandian. That bloody lefty communist, Arundhati Roy, was at it again. Ejamanar checked his schedule. Nothing for a couple of hours. He opened Word on his computer, and started typing:
While the drama in the aftermath of the election continued within the dominant Congress party on the prime ministership, what was not surprising was the negative direction of the stock index. Nor was it a surprise when the Leftists (including the Congress party) pulled out that old chestnut -- the conspiracy theory -- as an explanation for enormous loss in wealth. By blaming the former ruling party, the BJP, and its ostensibly money-grubbing commercial interests for the fall in the stock index, the Congress and its allies seem destined to set themselves up for failure.
Leading the charge against the supposedly malign commercial interests is author and Leftist diva, Arundhati Roy. While accusing the corporate world of a 'blatant game' for conspiring with members of the former government to manipulate a market crash she extols Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi's 'timidity by not playing the princess.' For someone who believes modesty to be an unqualified virtue, there is a noticeable economy of that in her pronouncements.
The hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty of Leftists like Roy is only
The phone rang. It was Thilakavathi.
“Dad? It’s Thilakavathi!”
“Hi, Sweetie! What’s up?”
“Nothing much, I just wanted to let you know that I’ll be late tonight, so don’t worry, everything will be fine.”
Squawking, angry noises could be heard in the background. It was that awful Snoop Dogg again. He never listened to such nonsense while growing up. Nor for that matter did he ever come home late, or argue with his parents, or walk blindly into danger the way his two children did. He ate all his vegetables, and exercised regularly. He used his knife and fork properly and never slouched.
“Thilaka, listen to me… can you turn that awful racket off for a minute?”
“Dad, you have no idea about music. That was Snoop Dogg”.
“Now, listen to me, sweetie. Just a short while back I read about an 85 year old man who wanted to go fishing in Key West, Florida. He was supposed to go with his son-in-law, but he got into the wrong fishing boat. Halfway through, he lost his memory, and got shipwrecked on a rock miles out on the ocean. He was sunburned and dehydrated, and completely unaware of who or where he was, when, luckily, his son-in-law’s search party managed to find him, and rescue him in the nick of time. He is now recovering in a hospital in Key West, and is really lucky he is still alive.”
There was silence at the other end. It was a stunned and disbelieving silence. At his end, Ejamanar gave a contented belch. That would shake up Thilakavathi and get his point across. After a few seconds, Thilakavathi spoke.
“Dad? Are you feeling alright?”
“What do you mean? Of course I’m fine.”
“Then why did you tell me that story about the old man in Florida? Was it someone you knew?”
Ejamanar sagged in his chair. She would never understand how unsafe the streets were, or how vulnerable she was. She thought it was all a huge joke. Well, she could laugh all she liked. He would never stop trying to warn her.
5.45pm. In the Acura MDX, on the way home
Bloody stupid mid-town traffic. THAT DAMN FOOL WITH THE OBAMA-BIDEN STICKER, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT OF AN IDIOT LEFTY LIKE THAT, I’LL TEACH HIM A LESSON FOR TRYING TO CUT IN FRONT OF ME!
Amidst screeching brakes and the sharp blaring of horns, the Acura MDX squeaked through a narrow gap between the Obama-Biden car and a taxi, leaving a shaken and quivering Obama-Biden supporter and an enraged cabbie in its wake. Back home in 7 minutes, a record even by Ejamanar’s standards.
6pm. Back at home.
Mostly silent at home, except for some banging of pans in the kitchen, where Mrs. Ejamanar seemed to be in a better mood. Chokkalingam was all set to leave for the neighborhood basketball court. Ejamanar greeted Chokkalingam cheerily, and was rewarded with a grunt.
“Hey, Chokka, where are you off to?”
“The basketball court”.
“Have you finished your homework?”
“Yeah, let me leave!”
“What did you have today?”
“I forgot. You’re so annoying! Let me go!”
“What do you mean you forgot, you must have finished it just a few minutes back!You’re not going anywhere until you tell me what you did for homework.”
“History. Genghis Khan.”
(Rubbing his hands together): “Ah, Genghis Khan, one of my favorite characters in history! Where was he from?”
“Dad, you’re so annoying! Let me go! Oh, OK, he was from…errr…Italy .”
“WHAT!” (holding Chokkalingam by the ear, and dragging him, squealing, to the map on the wall outside his bedroom).
6.20pm. At home
Chokkalingam finally left for the basketball court, after many reminders about the 23rd Street shoot-out and I-Pod thieves and drug-dealers and the assorted no-gooders of the vicinity. Ejamanar settled down for a hard-earned glass of wine. He read a breaking-news story about an ape which had escaped from the Bronx Zoo and was feared to be wandering the streets of Manhattan, and tried Thilakavathi on her cell phone. As usual, he got her voice-mail, but he left her a message anyway, telling her to watch out for the ape, which seemed to have a fondness for white I-Pods.
At 7.30, Chokkalingam returned from basketball. Dinner (more of the weird, nameless dishes Mrs. Ejamanar had taken to making, and which Ejamanar had no choice but to praise), then the O’Reilly Factor and the Talking Points Memo, with Bill O’Reilly ranting about the politics of terror. Chokkalingam made himself scarce and disappeared into his room to illegally download more songs on LimeWire.
At 8.30pm , Thilakavathi returned home, unmolested by marauding apes. She made her way straight to the kitchen and started pottering around.
All was well, and the family was home, safe….for one more day, at least.
9pm. Bedtime. Goodnight, Ejamanar. Hope you get a good night’s sleep!!