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kazhchapadu

TWENTY-TWO  CARAT LAUGHTER (Sreedevi Krishnan)

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RRuby Fernandez, popularly known as ‘Aunty Ruby’ to all, is undoubtedly the most popular person in our neighborhood, loved & admired by everyone, in spite of her age & unconventional life. 

Aunty Ruby was a great conversationalist, with her sparkling wit and BBC accent, she could narrate many incidents from her long life as a Nurse in all the big cities of India. Even when she talks in Tamil with that anglicized accent due to her Anglo- Indian origin, it was so enjoyable to the listeners. Apart from her narrating skill, she was a good mimic too imitating Politicians, film stars etc. 

Aunty Ruby, with her 45 years’ of experience as a nurse, was really a God-sent for all the local people. Thanks to her, people who, need regular Insulin injections & blood pressure – checking  stopped going to the greedy Dr. Ganesh, who, charged them heavily. For mothers of  children ,who often need regular visits to that money-grabber Dr. Ganesh, Aunty was a real angel. Local people firmly believed that Aunty had that 'Kaipunyam’, that rare 'Divine touch' which is completely lacked in Ganesh & his nursing home Doctors, who were young, inexperienced, fresh from the Medical College and therefore work for very low remuneration. 

Naturally, Aunty Ruby with her 'healing touch', loving and caring nature was considered another ‘mother Theresa’, a savior to help the middle class residents of the
locality. 

Aunty’s smoking, taking a couple of drinks on weekends and eating habits but also sympathetic  even to  her marriage at the age of 60 to an old Retired Army man. On the other hand, we all admired her for her strong convictions, kindness, her willingness to help anyone in distress with that charming ,disarming perpetual smile. 

Even the youngsters, who have scant respect for elderly people admired Aunty Ruby for amusing and  entertaining them with her own experiences, her love- affairs, three marriages, which included the last one in which all of them took an active role!! 

Reminiscing her third husband, who she got through a Matrimonial ad, she says "To be frank, I still love Peter, he was a great company, at least he pretended to love me. We even had complete compatibility, smoked the same brand of cigarettes, loved the same drink, whisky on the rocks and both of us loved to have  our favorite food, bread & beef stew.Then,  suppressing her laughter, she adds "Isn't it compatibility? Ha, if only he were not such a pest, alcoholic and  financial burden on me!! How do you respect a man, who depends on his pensioner wife's income for drinks?” Ha ha ha, Ruby laughs uncontrollably, shaking her shoulders, her lovable Infectious laughter!! 

In fact, her greatest asset was her ability to carry on lively conversation with spicy anecdotes to any age group. To the young children, she was a real affectionate Grandma with an inexhaustible stock of fairy tales, while-the youth reveled in her younger days’ experiences. For the middle-aged, she was their trusted counselor and  guide, while for the old and the sick, her angelic presence, her Bible quotes were prayers were Manna from Heaven.  

In short, Aunty Ruby reminds one of Shakespeare's words, "Age cannot whither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety"  

So, for all the residents of Shenoy Nagar, she was indeed a paragon of all virtues. We unanimously agreed that she must have been very charming and  desirable during her hey days. Even at the age of 70, with her lustrous pepper-salt hair in boy's cut, oval face, the gleaming eyes though through-her glasses and her laughter showing her original fine teeth and the peculiar way she  laughed shaking her shoulders which transformed her demeanor like an innocent child,revealed   her past glory!! 

 Actually , Aunty’s third husband was physically abusive and a terrible financial burden to Aunty Ruby, it was the young men  of the locality who drove him away with a warning never to enter her premises in future. 

I had a special bond with Aunty Ruby. A week after Aunty had come to stay in my opposite flat, as a caretaker for her doctor nephew, I had developed some problem with my uterus needed an emergency operation. My husband was in the States then . My children were 10 and 8years old and I had no one to come and stay with my children during my operation. So, when Aunty Ruby visited me to get acquainted as my immediate neighbour with cake, for my children, I casually mentioned about my problem more to allay my fears from her medical experience and  to know whether I could wait for my husband's arrival after a month.  

But her response shocked me, "No, you must get rid of the problem, I will stay here with the children and I will come with the children and visit you every evening, okay?  She hugged me saying, "What my child, you're young enough to be my daughter ,didn't the good Lord say "Love thy neighbor?"

Actually that incident made Aunty Ruby, our new neighbor, that old Anglo lady with funny Tamil became the most popular & lovable darling of our Shenoy Nagar.  

One Sunday evening, I happened to see Aunty, clutching her hand- bag hurrying towards the beach for her unfailing routine -her evening walk. She did not stop as usual in front of my house where I was watering  my potted plants, instead she said, “My child, I am in a hurry, would like to buy some vegetables ,fridge is practically empty, see you once I come back" she hurried, her walk turned into a run almost. 

The next morning, Aunty came home soon after I bundled off my children to their school.  Sipping slowly, enjoying her favorite, steaming cup of coffee, she narrated the previous evening's experiences, as usual in great detail.  

"Really Asha, of late, age is catching up with me, I think. Re- living my past become my second nature now a days, especially during my evening walk. 

Sighing deeply, Aunty continued,” So, last evening too while walking, I was just thinking that my life has no meaning, is a simple waste, Well, the present has nothing to offer and the future has nothing to offer except the inevitable sickness and death." 

Ignoring my protest with the wave of her hand, she continued "Life would have been  meaningful, if I had children of my own, but then I think, the good Lord has His reasons, what if I have worthless children? After all, now I have the earned the love and affection of all of you, my children here, count my blessing…..…Suddenly, my path was blocked by a young man with his hands outspread, to stop me from moving forward. Though shocked momentarily, a paralyzing fear affecting my vocal cord, I tried almost unsuccessfully for a smile and said, "What do you want from a penniless old woman, son? I have nothing to offer except this ten Rupees which, I brought for purchasing vegetables". Immediately opening my wallet, I waved my ten rupee note.Snatching it from me, he thundered, "Remove at once your gold chain and give it to me!" Seeing my bewildered expression, he shouted, "Quick, old woman, reluctant to part with your heavy gold chain, I don't want to hurt you. But, if you don't remove chain, I know how to make you do it, so saying he branded his sharp knife.

When I looked around, I was convinced of the hopelessness of the situation. This ruthless young man would go to any extent to gain some quick money. Oh! death does not frighten me but lying in a pool of blood in a narrow path is certainly not my idea of death.

At once I unhooked my chain and before handing it over kissed The crucifix, the tiny locket and   gave it to the athletic young man. Standing before me

With outstretched hands....

with lightening speed he grabbed the chain, shrieked with delight , "you are a sweet old lady, well, as a token of my appreciation, I will give you back your Jesus locket, which does not fetch me any money, so light, less than half a gram. So, take  it back. Thanks for the chain and for your cooperation, No hard feelings ,pray for me okay?  appreciate it "Grinning, he gave the crucifix back and  rode away his deafening motorbike....Huh ! He does not know I am really praying for him “  

A week later, when Aunty Ruby was about to start her evening walk early at 5 pm instead of her usual 6 to 7 due to her nerve-shattering experience of the previous week, she was shocked to see a police man and the youth in handcuffs in front of her apartment followed by a crowd of the residents. 

Answering Aunty's bewildered look, the Policeman explained, "We caught this notorious criminal, who regularly snatched gold chains after escaping from a prison in Coimbatore, serving a life-sentence for murder. Ma’am, enamored by your gold-plated chain, this fool tried to sell it in vummidiars  Jewelry which eventually led to his arrest. Want you to identify this chain? Is it yours Ma’am?"

Aunty looked at the exquisitely designed chain and  broke into her uncontrollable laughter,wiping  off the tears  which strangely flowed from her cheeks whenever she laughed and looked at the young man and  said, "Son, didn’t you know "All that glitters is not gold" the first lesson when you thieve jewelry? My light crucifix which you thought would not have got you much money was the only 22 carrot jewelry I had ever possessed." Everyone laughed!! 

Amidst the guffaw, the quick-witted policeman commented, "Sure Ma’am, this is 22 carat laughter" 

Wiping her laughter-induced tears, Aunty commented "Ha! One more incident for me to narrate." 

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Comments

  1. samgeev

    2020-11-02 03:10:27

    Computer cheats: The repetition in the story is obviously an error in using the computer. But it does not take away the beauty of the story.

  2. Samgeev

    2020-11-01 17:01:31

    Sorry, misspelled. 22 carat

  3. samgeev

    2020-10-31 23:26:25

    22 carrot story. I enjoyed it

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