Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gopu Chettiar

Its 1922. Gopu Chettiar was a man of immense wealth and repute in the temple town of Kumbakonam. No one really knew how wealthy he was. He owned every house and shop in the most commercial street of the town.

Chettiar also doubled up as the local bank. Farmers and small traders dare not keep their capital at home, lest burglars have a field night. Chettiar did business far and wide. He reportedly controlled the textile business of the entire district with Karaikal, the French dominion south of Pondicherry.

One fine evening, Chettiar was tasting the divine food aka Kuzhi Paniyaram at his portico. His third wife Visalatchi was determined to become his favorite. When your husband is sixty years old, culinary is the best option to impress him.

While he was working on the paniyarams, Chettiar was mulling over the business proposition made by Ramalingam, his grand-nephew through his second wife. Chettiar knew he was in trouble. The business made little sense. A Chettiar hotel will fall flat against the Brahmin ones. But 200 rupees was worth wasting on Ramalingam atleast to placate his second wife, whom he hardly saw these days.

But Visalatchi would have none of it. She was two years younger than this grand-nephew-in-law and could read the smirk in his gaze. And she had her way. Ramalingam will get his No, the next morning.

The Mandapam beside the main pond on the west Car street was busy as usual this evening. It was the daily meeting place of the most important men in town. Ramalingam having never earned a ana paisa in life, was a crucial member of this gathering. Such outstanding issues as the most beautiful dancer in the recent temple festival were debated and voted in these meetings. And that day, Ramalingam had some rice to grind.

continued immediately in the next post ...

No comments: