The Arm Chair guide

Dawn at no.8 Devanhalli is unlike the musical strains of Amanda Shankar’s “Dawn at Varanasi.” If dawn at Varanasi takes you through the ethereal  (though imaginary) sounds of Varanasi, dawn at Devanhalli is very real, and very southern with wafting coffee, Amma pounding on her Dell laptop which has replaced her portable Tippa Typewriter, Vimmi-ajji is just waking up.

“Sheela”  she called out to Amma, “I’ll have coffee, brush madidanantra” making sure that the coffee would be ready by the time she came after her morning routine of brush, her teeth then her hair and tiding her sari. As Amma was getting the coffee ready, Vimmi-ajji went through the out dated collections of cassette’s and CD’s that were on the table.

“are you still with these?” she asked my mother.

Vimmi- ajji is Vimala Rao my mother’s aunt though only half a decade older than her. somehow she intimidated my otherwise authoritarian mother. For me it is an interesting dynamics to watch.

Vimi-ajji like I told you is Vimala Rao who retired as the Principle of a school, she taught geography. What is amazing about her is  not that she did her B.Ed after her kids started school, but the fact that she did not let widowhood depress her, she just went on to do what her husband and she had planned to do after she retired, that globe trot. Vimi-ajji is an amazing storyteller.

As Amma is getting her coffee, she has my daughters Tee and Jay totally fascinated with her rendering.

“Wilma-ajji nivu, mountain climb maadidra” enquired my daughter,  her 5yr. Old eyes wide open, images of seventy four year old  Vimmi-ajji scrambling up seemed so improbable.

“Of course jay,”

“Wilma-ajji in all your travel what did you like best?”

“the equator.’

“tell me, tell me” Jay began her ditty. “no, tell us the mountain gorilla story”

“Let her finish her coffee first” was amma’s contribution.

“okay, here is the deal” Vimmi-ajji said, “equator story over breakfast and mountain gorilla over lunch”

“what is ekaator?” Jay whispered to Tee

“It is a line in the middle of the earth, everything above it is northern hemisphere and everything below it the southern hemisphere.” Jay explained.

Vimmi-ajji took the kids to the sink, she let out the water, added a drop of ink. “now tell me how is the ink going.”

“clockwise’ replied Tee

“andre… what ?”asked Jay

“look at the water moving, it is moving exactly like the seconds hand of the watch, allwa?”

“howdu” agreed Jay, ‘that is called clockwise’ explained Vimmi-ajji.

“water always goes down the sink or whirlpools occur clockwise on the northern hemisphere.”

By this time Amma joined the conversation too. though Vimmi-ajji intimidated Amma, Amma could be quite formidable too. she taught math and physics and was equally well travelled. Of course Amma lost out storytelling, she will pick up the atlas and give a geography lesson!!. Unlike her aunt, my mother is with great difficulty 5 ft. She is aggressively independent.

“Sheela where was that place?”

“Laipikia  or something similar sounding county” replied mom.

“Laipikia is the county, that is right but the town…it sounded like Nankatai”

“Nanyuki village”

“Yes Nanyuki’ agreed Vimmi-ajji ,”remember we discussed how Chinese it sounded.”

“oh! Yes” Amma added, “we had gone another 4- 5km.”

“on one side of the equator the water goes clockwise and when you cross the equator it goes anticlockwise.” Tee and Jay were totally fascinated, “we didn’t check the magnetism did we?” asked Amma.

“oh! Do the magnets change too” wondered Vimmi-ajji.

“logically it should” argued amma,”after all magnets are about polarity too.”

“did you see the water whipping?”demanded Jay,

“water swirls, putti and yes we did see it.” assured both Amma and Vimmi-ajji.

“That’s enough lets have breakfast.” I called out herding them to the breakfast table. As I was laying out the table, Jay pulled out a chalk and drew a line on the floor, it called it “ekator” with a glass of water she would skip on either side of the line, twirling her wrist clock wise while stood on one side and anticlockwise when she stepped on the other side of the  line.

“Jay, your line is running from north to south, it is not the equator, and do you know what the line that runs from north to south is called,”

“longitude” answered Tee

“yes, you should get your ammamma to tell you the story of the Greenwich Meridian.”

“Not now makkale, after I cook lunch” was amma’s reply as she ran into the kitchen. and Jay, turned on her iPod which went, ”why this kolavari kolavari di” Just as I left for my clinic I saw my daughters, swaying to the rhythm with their great aunt Vimmi-ajji giving them company.





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