This month, we have author Manju Nambiar’s romantic comedy cum family drama as the book of the month. To let you know a bit more about the author, well Manju Nambiar hails from the southern state of Kerala, India. A Computer Engineer by profession, she now works in one of the leading firms in San Jose, California where she lives with her husband and daughter.
If you are looking for a feel-good heart warming love story with a happy ending, this is your right pick!
Nitya Balakrishnan, a young girl from Kerala had it all planned out. She was going to live a life of her dreams in the United States of America. And she thought she had nailed it, when she was accepted into one of the best universities of the world. But cosmos had other plans and conspired to drop Love.exe into her.
He came with a bang and stole her away in a breath. Love was not quite there in her agenda, but her heart wouldn’t hear of it. The human heart has its own little brain with its strange logic that remains elusive to our reasoning. For once, she just let it be, only to realize that there is no undo button.
This coming of age, beautiful tale of love, relationships and dreams would prick your soul, bring a smile to you , and tear up your eyes. A must read !
Yes! I fist pumped the air three times in my mind. It was the most prestigious Stanford University, welcoming me to their graduate program. I was in seventh heaven. I could not believe that I have been accepted to this world-renowned university. But I have been trained to behave modestly and not to reveal any of my emotional antics to the outside world. So quickly composing myself I tried to remain composed, stifling my ecstatic smile.
I handed over a hundred rupee note to the postman for delivering the good news. He blessed me and walked away, happy that his evening quota of drinks would now be assured.
I ran to my room hugging the envelope and locked the door behind. Kissing the envelope, I did a ball dance with it in my arms. I turned on my favourite song from the 90s ‘Aaj me upar, asman neeche, aaj me aage zamaana he peeche…’ (Today I am on top and the sky is beneath me. Today I am in the front and the world is behind me) and danced away to nirvana. This was the customary ritual I followed whenever I was deliriously thrilled, of course in the comfort of my own room, ever since I was small. I was literally on top of the world, probably the happiest person on earth at that very instant. I was going to live my dreams in the United States of America.
It has always been my dream to be free, be by myself, live in huge mansions, drive sporty cars, and wear swanky clothes. All inspired from the Hollywood and Bollywood heroines who seemed to live life to the fullest. When I watched these actresses on the internet, dressed in design wear, fighting for women’s rights, giving speech in Universities, saving the world from global warming, I felt a sense of pride in being a woman. One day I will also be like one of them, rich, powerful and confident, fighting for a real cause.
“Neethu, who was at the door?” I heard my mom cry out loud from the kitchen. I switched off the blasting music, steadied myself and went to the kitchen. My mom was in the process of cooking lunch for us. She was cutting a few drumsticks to put into the sambar that was boiling on the stove. Running towards her, I hugged her from behind. Startled, she gave a loud sharp cry which was exacerbated by the deafening soundsof the blender and whistles from the pressure cooker.
“What is the matter with you, Neethu, I could have hurt myself.” She shouted at me raising her hand that held a sharp knife.
“Guess what Amma, I got admitted to Stanford University.”
“Stanford University, where is that?” My mom didn’t look as pleased as I thought she should.
“In America, Amma, it’s one of the best universities in the world.”
“America? If you want to study further, why don’t you study in NIT itself? And what will happen to the job you got in Hyderabad?” I was doing my eighth semester in Computer Engineering at NIT, Calicut. I had also secured a job offer from Microsoft, Hyderabad during the campus recruitment in my sixth semester. My mother was already upset that I was going to live all by myself in Hyderabad which was 590 miles from Calicut where we lived. Now the mention of America didn’t particularly make her feel any better.
“Oh Amma, I got a full scholarship too. The University would pay my tuitions. Do you realize that this amount would be much more than what I could earn at Microsoft? Isn’t that cool? I get paid for my studies.”
“But how can you go alone to America, Neethu. You are young and not even married.”
“I am just 21 years old Amma.” I gasped wondering about the contrast in my mom’s thoughts; I am ‘young’, and not yet ‘married’.
“Exactly, you are 21, so behave yourself!”
“What’s wrong with my behaviour?” I asserted.
“You know, Leela went to America and came back pregnant with a baby! These white men can’t be trusted. Our girls are innocent. These Americans take advantage of us.”
“Who is this Leela?” I raised my eyebrows. Who in the world is this new character who came back with a white man’s baby and how come I didn’t know of this person.
“Oh, Saraswati’s daughter!”
“And who would Saraswati be?” I was beginning to lose my patience.
“Saraswati!” She shrieked in disbelief as if Saraswati was a close relative whom I failed to recognize. “From the TV serial ‘Swapnam’ that airs at 8:30 PM every day. Poor Saraswati, all she had was one daughter Leela. She went to America and the whole family was destroyed.” My mother fervently continued the story forgetting the boiling sambar and the drumsticks yearning to be cut.
“No Neethu no, I cannot let you do this to our family.” She concluded her story telling, glaring at my belly with the most condescending eyes. Her voice quivered as she convulsed in deep trauma. Her hands touched the sides of the temples as if to prevent her head from cracking open. I felt guilty. I felt pregnant too. Even Saraswati would not have tormented Leela this badly.
My mom was a soap drama addict and didn’t miss a single episode of any of the drama serials ever aired on TV. She cried, laughed, and even empathized with these characters as if they were her own flesh and blood. Over the years, I noticed that she has also begun to act like one of them. She was a drama queen at home. She cried at the drop of a hat, whimpered, sobbed and used strong theatrical words to express herself. I have often wondered if she herself wanted to be an actor and was rehearsing her dialogues and drama on our family.
“I am hungry. Let’s eat lunch Amma.” I tried to distract her.
“Oh yes let’s eat fast, ‘Punnaram’ will start soon.” She dropped the drumsticks into the ever-waiting sambar, referring to another soap serial that initiated her afternoon marathon matinee show.
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