“Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” read my Ammachi from the black and red bible on her lap. She adjusted her specs to look at me in a way that made me want to repeat after her. If I failed to recite Psalm 23 she would ask Jo, our parrot to recite it. She thought it intimidated me but I never understood that.
For Ammachi and me, weekends meant church and bible verses. In church I would stare at the flower-type lights in the ceiling and wonder why Jaya aunty’s jasmine flowers were always fresh while mine looked like roasted flowers. Then when the choir would begin singing, I would open my mouth every two seconds to form an oval because that is how it looked when they sang.
Our TV always showed me Christian songs and spiritual messages whereas Kavitha’s TV showed me Dhanush songs. “Cinema, hero, heroine, films” were banned words at home. Once when I went to Kavitha’s house to teach her maths, I found her dancing in front of the TV for the Manmatharasa song. I was amazed and then I too joined her. I longed to dance like Dhanush in this song and after that day I began to love Kavitha even more. Visiting Kavitha’s house every evening on the pretext of teaching her maths became my everyday routine. We would both sit in front of the TV and wait for Manmatharasa.
One evening, shaking my head like a Thanjavur doll, I walked home singing Manmatharasa. Amma asked me why I was happy. I said Manmatharasa and ran away because I didn’t know what else to say.
That night I pushed my pillow away and slept on her hand which I still think is the best pillow. When she asked me again about Manmatharasa I told her about that song and Dhanush with a big smile. Then, hiding a big smile herself, she asked whether Ammachi knew about this. I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep, imitating Thatha’s snores.
“Eyy, Manmatharasa” called my Ammachi the next morning.
I looked at Amma like a cat and she smiled like a dog.
I walked to Ammachi all the while looking at the floor. She lifted my chin up and asked what Manmatharasa was. With my readymade paavam face, I said that it was a song that made me happy. I relaxed when I heard my mom’s suppressed laugh because then I knew I wouldn’t be beaten.
That Sunday Ammachi asked me to play manmatharasa on the TV. Ammachi, Amma and I were waiting for the song to come but when Ammachi heard the sound of Thatha’s bike, we switched off the TV hurriedly. We dispersed and pretended to do something else. They were just unlucky that day.
From then on, no more maths tuition happened at Kavitha’s home because Ammachi allowed our TV to sing Dhanush songs.