Monday, September 19, 2011

Playing House

Several years ago, one night my mother and I were stuck at a waterlogged moothira sandhu in West Mambalam.. It was raining heavily and my mother was praying for the auto not to stall. The friendly auto driver broke the tension by pointing to a nice independent maadi veedu. "Idhaan kavarchi nadigai Nalinasree veedu. Ivalai Judge Arivazhagan vechirukkaru." After I grew up enough to fully understand what that meant, I remembered Judge Arivazhagan and felt a pang of envy. He had the most glamorous change from routine, a chinna veedu which he could easily afford on top of his big house.

Back in the day, may be even his thawaali could manage one within his range, if he pushed himself and his first family really hard. An abridged salary envelope to the wife who had a total of  three sarees all of them torn or old. A black-and-white television perennially tuned into the Tuesday drama. A 60 Watts bulb flickering under low voltage in the only bedroom. The kid outgrowing his clothes, his draayer's seam re-stitched a couple of times where it most usually comes off. As the wife somehow managed to stay under the reduced budget, even saved and stashed away some money in a secret corner or dabba, across the Cooum, the concubine would get a covering chain, a new cotton saree and biriyani from Buhari.

In today's times I doubt if Arivazhagan could maintain one regular house without being in cahoots with very rich villains. Thawaali would probably realize the virtues of Sanyasam. The fanciful Software or MBA yuppie -- the center of our universe -- who watches 9/11 anniversary news items on CNN-IBN in favor of Sun News has it worse, a victim of his own Yuppiness. Electronic salary remittance, online banking, skyrocketing inflation and City Centre. Weekly shopping, pizza at least once a week, real vacations, the not so occasional night at GRT Grand Days. Random frills thanks to Apple. Car and driver. EMI. Brand-philic kids and laptop-style education. He does not have to multiply by two to put the proverbial towel on the head. 

In an age of advancing incomes and declining morals, the chinna veedu concept has become cost-prohibitive. Some back of the envelope calculations say it requires tens of crores, over less than two  decades. Assuming a man is 30 - 40 while considering all this, and has 20-25 years left before he dies of a heart attack/blood pressure in peacemaking efforts between two families. At anything less than 10 crores, you cannot even think about a Small House Lite (i.e. a woman who is in relationship with a married man not for money but for love or something like that) leave alone someone from the cine industry or Twitter. Or a poet. 

All you need is someone who says, "Remember the time when we were cavorting in Cannes last year...." leading the middle aged gent at the nearby table in T.G.I Friday's to make the same calculations above.