She had not turned around to say good bye, as she knew he would have already run towards his wrongly parked car. He had thoughtfully put her ticket, her ID card and a few fifty Rupee notes in a little black folder so that she wouldn’t have to rummage through her purse to locate them. He had also given her a bottle of water and a packet of cream biscuits – in case she needed to eat something before she got on to the flight. He knew she had diabetes, and had frequent bouts of hypoglycemia.
Karthu Amma, as she was called by all her nieces and nephews, thought back at the instructions that Aravind had coached her multiple times. “Amma, you have to go to the lady in that blue uniform, and ask her for the Jet Airways flight to Mangalore. You have to tell her that it is the 3 o’clock flight OK?” She had nodded, more to release Aravind of his rapidly increasing guilt for letting her travel alone, than because she understood those instructions.
The lady in blue uniform had been really nice, Karthu had to admit; unlike most of the other young, painted faces she had encountered in the city of artificial lights and equally artificial smiles. The lady took her through the crowded counters and the security check, and she finally boarded the aircraft.
Neelaparambil Karthyayani Nambiar was a proud woman, who had seen the rise and fall of aristocratic reign of her family in the village she came from. She had grown up listening to legendary stories of valor and honor, of family heirlooms captured back from Tipu Sultan’s army by her ancestors; those who never ran out of gold to reward judiciously, and the intelligence to punish justly. She herself had been witness to grand weddings and grander temple festivals in the family. But things changed – some were gradual and some of them, overnight.
She had no complaints – she’d had a healthy life, a comfortable life for over seventy years now – even though fate had decided for her to stay lonely during most of these years. After having lost her young husband from an early marriage, she had decided to remain a widow; though her family had been modern enough to contemplate a second marriage.
Karthu had always been wealthy – both by birth and by marriage. She had also been lucky in terms of being surrounded by children of all ages around her all the time, thanks to the large, extended families from both sides. It was one such child that she was heading to visit. Her grand-niece was soon getting married, and the family had begged her to come to the wedding.
She was also worldly wise, thanks to all the gossip she was privy to. She knew her wealth had helped to keep the near of kin nearer. She also knew that she had been generous to every young child in the family – but it kept her happy, and well cared for. The old household help had once told her about the rumor doing the rounds in the family circles – about the heirloom jewels from Tipu Sultan that came as part of her ample dowry.
There were many stories about the lavish dowry that young Karthyayani had brought from her loving family, and the wedding that had seen guests from even the Chirakkal Raja’s family. No one knew details of where the royal gifts were, or how much of it was still with Karthu. And she had never cared to go into the details of the same.
Aravind, who preferred the city heat to genlte breeze in the village, was one of Karthu’s youngest nephews, and he was still struggling to find the right things in life – the right job, the right girl, and the right things to say in a family gathering, when you have neither of the other two. So he had decided to stay away from it all. But he had arranged for her to visit the grand-niece, helped her pack in all the gifts, and also apologized many times. Poor boy! Karthu had visited him while on her way back from a naming ceremony of a grandchild.
She was now sitting in the aircraft, holding the buckle of her seat belt, trying to fit the two pieces in - too proud to ask the young man sitting next to her to help her. The air hostess smiled as she came closer to Karthu, and helped her snap the buckle in place. Even this one seemed nice. ‘How is it that Aravind cannot find a nice one, with so many of these pretty things in the city?’ She wondered to herself.
As soon as Karthu stepped out of the Mangalore airport (not as intimidating as the earlier one, she decided) she saw Nisha and her husband waving frantically at her. Nisha was her niece, and the mother of the bride-to-be. They had come all the way from their little town almost 3 hours away to pick her up from the airport. Karthu smiled as she realized she would soon be able to see her lovely grand niece again.
TO BE CONTD. ( Part 2 / Part 3 / Final Part )