Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Kajan’s Wedding Night!

Exactly six months back, the lead of this plot, Kajan Anna aka Kanna, joined our “Young Stars Volley Ball Club”. Our club is three years old, formed by the friends in Athiyadi village, about a mile away from the Jaffna town, Sri Lanka, only participated in this year community centre knock-out tournament with a first round exit. The club has only eight regular members, short of the minimum players to play the game in the evenings, sometimes we would makeup our numbers by inviting neighbourhood Nadaraja uncle and even Priya’s younger brother who is just turned eight last week. Our court is Priya’s home backyard in Athiyadi,  the area we proudly claimed as our home court, is made up of linings of strings made from coconut leave trunks, poles made from railway track wooden sleepers and the net is from the stolen fishing net at the Pannai Jetty area. “Young Stars” doesn’t fancy the set up style game anymore after Nadaraja uncle once got hit on his abdomen and fainted while playing at the nets. His wife rushed to the court, scolded us with all the filth words in Tamil language and ceased the ball from us. Our only ball is gone by then, the club members now just gather at the court to gossip everyday. That’s when Keerthi introduced Kanna to our team that day.

Kanna shown interest in joining the club and even promised to buy a volley ball for the club. Priya didn’t like this arrangement at first sight, but Keerthi insisted in joining him to the club. Kanna is well above the club’s median age, will be turning thirty this July, a wealthy man, jobless and the only son to his parents. He has a sister and Priya rumoured around that Keerthi is stalking her and that’s why he was pushing so hard to get Kanna into the team. Kanna’s father is in Switzerland, just managed to received the asylum status and Kanna’s Rolex watch would tell the new never before richness in the family. Everything he does, would directly or indirectly would refer to how much richer is he. He once told me, the watch alone would cost fifty thousand rupees. LTTE last week took him to the bunker to demand a ransom from the family. It is believed that they paid about two hundred thousand rupees.  An amount, none of the club families wouldn’t even can dream of. Kanna is the only player who wears shoes during our volleyball games. He comes in a green chaly motorbike. The bike runs on Kerosene as every other motorbike in Jaffna. One of the government ministers recalled his school day science subject and advised that LTTE would be using Petrol and batteries to make bombs, so the government banned the Petrol and any sort of batteries in North and East of Sri Lanka totally.City of Jaffna people are inventive enough, the mechanics found the way to tweak the Carburettor, so you can use few drops of eau de cologne to ignite the engine and once kerosene starting to burn, the ride will be fun. You can see people blowing eau de cologne drops in a long tubes while riding motorbikes. Lots of love stories kicked off in the suburbs by just helping young lady teachers kick start or push their motorbikes in the mornings.

Kanna always parks his Chaly in front of Nadaraja uncle’s house, which is just opposite to our volleyball court. Sooner we realised, Keerthi and Kanna have never played for the same side, letting one of them to play for the side facing the Nadaraja uncle’s house. Once in a while they would mishit the ball to uncle’s house backyard. Kanna would volunteer himself to jump over the fence to collect the ball. The mis-hits became more and more frequent by days passing and Kanna took his time to get the ball back to court. Enough to make Priya suspicious, he once followed Kanna to see him what’s been he doing while searching the ball, and caught him and Nadaraja uncle’s daughter Vanathy Akka seeing each other at their back yards. She would be nits picking to her younger sister at the back yards and every time Kanna goes there, they exchanged stares and sometimes a word or two. Priya seen this one day, went on to tell to his mother, and story started to spread everywhere in the village. One day Nadaraja uncle’s wife, went on to slap Kanna when he caught him talking to his daughter, next day Kanna’s mother came to the place and the fight erupted big time. Two days gone by, there were no more games possible, after Vanathy Akka’s mother ceased the ball and Kanna and Keerthi went to hiding. 

Within a week there was a sudden turn around when Kanna lodged a police entry, Tamil Eelam Police, a police organisation run by LTTE under their de-facto government, arrived to the scene. They have been tipped as the “Love Police” by the public as they are quite known for turning romantic affairs into weddings especially against the Jaffna caste system norms and obviously became not very popular among the Jaffna’s high prolific “Vellalar” caste. Police warned both the parents, they arranged the wedding date and warned them against any dowry demands.  Nadaraja uncle in fact was bit happy about how things have gone. Kanna would go to Switzerland as a refugee soon,  a wealthy life for Vanathy akka waiting ahead, so does the case for her entire family. There cannot be any dowry and Kanna’s family lost their bargaining power from the moment they went to police. It all happened of a sudden and the wedding is planned within a week.
Athiyadi village was gearing for the occasion, so was Young star team. The club made a hand written banner, wishing the couple with the club name covering the most part of the banner. We placed  the at the gate entrance of the Vanathy Akka’s house.

In the wedding morning, Keerthi came up with a plan to arrange a movie night on that day. Movie nights have become special events in Jaffna on wedding days. People could watch movies only during such events. Movies are generally banned or censored by the LTTE regime. Censorship was so strict, once a Tamil movie of length 140 minutes was shortened to just 45 minutes with most of the romantic scenes were censored. Romantic scenes means not the Hollywood style sexual scenes but even if the heroine wears a skirt above the knee, short or a top with any sort of cleavage, the scene would be cut down without a mercy. Keerthi’s dream job is to join the censor committee some day, so he could watch most of the un-cut versions. The current committee is comprised of a retired judge, a college teacher and a post master. One would still wonder what is post master to do with a movie censorship. That’s the way it is!!

So we all gathered at Priya’s place to plan the movie night. Keerthi is responsible for the movies, his cousin is running a video shop and we all believed that he smuggled many original VCRs from India by boat. Priya is responsible for the generator. Jaffna lost the electricity after the year 1991, leaving people using the hurricane and chimney lambs for lights at night. They would use Kerosene or coconut oil to lit them. Now you realise how desperate we would be to set this movie night up, a rare out of the blue moon event for all of us! Suresh is responsible for collecting 5 bottles of Kerosene and a three ounces of eau de cologne. Out of all these, Kerosene collection is the toughest part. The ration system allows two litres for the poverty line families and one litre for the rest. Poverty line is determined by monthly income, so most of the families with members in the foreign countries would come under the poverty lines since none of them leave any records of their foreign members in the ration system. The government servants’ families would be considered richer though their salaries are around five thousand to thousand rupees. An amount Kanna spent on the gold bangle to present to Vanathy akka in one of those wall jumping episodes.

Keerthi had managed to collect the movies from his cousin. five movies, all of them are Tamil, “Roja”, “Annamalai”, “Chembaruthi”, “Thevar Magan” and “Puthiya Paravai”, we were compelled to get ‘Puthiya Paravai”, an old 60s classic, because of Nadaraja uncle offered one litre kerosene if we agreed to do so. And he demanded to play that movie at first too. We were left no choice but to obey him, getting one litre kerosene is like a dream when other sponsors giving two to three hundred millilitres range! Keerthi is so excited to watch Annamalai, a Rajanikanth super hit but not many watched in Jaffna. He said, the lead heroine Kushboo is appearing in a bathroom scene and Rajanikath accidently seen her naked while going to find a snake in the house. He claimed his VCR tape is uncensored and all of us were so thrilled.

The night arrived, not to mention that Kanna and Vanathy akka are now married, the couple’s room is just near the the living hall area where our movie night to be held. The generator is arrived on time. Priya hired the generator for eight hundred rupees, the amount we couldn’t collect on time, so Keerthi stole couple of cash gift envelopes in the wedding, even then we are still hundred rupees short. Television and VCR player are from Kanna, his father sent them over two years back and barely been used ever since. Starting the generator is a big procedure. First of all, its not a power generator, it was a water pump turned generator. Again you use eau de cologne to kick start it, a procedure would take 30 minutes if one gets lucky. So Priya started the procedure and we were on time at nine, the first movie “Puthiya Paravai” played. This was where we went wrong, after twenty minutes, the visuals started to be fuzzy. Keerthi stopped the movie, got a screwdriver and tried opening the VCR player. The crowd started to make noise and kids started to play around. Priya wasn’t sure about what Keerthi was going to do. Keerthi told the VCR head needs to be cleaned and the old movie is full of dust. He couldn’t open the VCR. This left us with no choice, but to knock the couple’s room to get Kanna out, he is the owner of the VCR player and he might know this. We knocked and shouted to get him out. He wasn’t amused, opened the half door to come out and helped us open the player. The tape got stuck and the head was full of dirt. We used cologne to clean it and continue playing. Kanna went back into his room, warning us not to knock the door again. Keerthi took over the reins now. After two more similar stuck and clean-ups, we decided to get rid of the old movie.

Now its Annamalai time, kids demanded it before they all can going to sleep. The bathing scene indeed arrived, but nothing shown but the Heroin’s face, Priya started to curse Keerthi, so did Suresh. Annamalai was well received by the audience, of course its Rajanikanth movie and we all get to see him only in wedding nights! Now the time is 11.30, Priya said, the generator needs a cool off and we played the next movie one hour later. This time the movie is Roja, quiet famous for its songs, Priya said its a Maniratnam movie which none of us were even aware who was he, half of the crowd fell asleep when Roja finished at 2.30. The next show was Devar Magan. Most of the crowd left the hall by then and only Suresh, Priya, Keerthi and Kanna’s sister were in the hall. Priya was totally annoyed with Kanna’s sister still awake and especially with the Keerthi’s show-offs with the VCR operations when she is around. Keerthi showed some pride on only himself could operate the complex TV and VCR systems. Sooner she too went to sleep, Devar Magan climax scene was nearing. The time is 4.15 AM …
Kanna’s door has opened!

Everybody forgot the movie now. Excited to see Kanna coming out of the room. Priya looked bit jealous but Keerthi was excited. Kanna wearing just a saram, uncombed hair and still sweating, at least he looked he was. Priya just whispered to keerthi that Kanna just came out of the room only to annoy them, and he should have just disturbed his hair before getting out. Keerthi didn’t give a dare at it and asked Kanna,
“How was it Kanna”
“How was what?”
“The thing”
“The thing?”
“Yeah the thing…”
“No, nothing”
“Why the hell you are here now?”
“I have a movie, lets watch it!”
Priya and Keerthi are now bit surprised.
“What movie is it?”
Kanna went straight to the television, picked a bag besides it and took a VCR which didn’t have any labels in it.
“What movie is it? Devar Magan isn’t over yet” – Keerthi couldn’t hide his anxiety
“No time, Vanathy would wake up any time, lets watch it quickly”
“What is it”
“An Adults Only one!!!”


  1. Good One JK.. Nice flow.. Is this real or reel?

  2. Reel ofcourse ... the period of this story happened is 1993, I was 13 years only!!! .. I just tried to create the lifestyle of that time!!!

    Thanks maite

  3. Hi JK,

    I enjoyed the way it brings up the real events within the story. Especially that "eau de cologne" usage is quite interesting.

    I can recall "Roja" release days. We can surely hear Roja songs in any weddings.

    Ending is unexpected & funny :P

  4. Thanks Vimal. Initially I dint start this as a story. I was writing about my first Roja experience( my the most favorite movie todate, 20 years gone by!), but it turned out to be a story and I edited those Roja specific portions out since the story became too big.

  5. Love this "short story". It captures the life style of the youth, the LTTE regime and the social and economic aspects of our society during that time,and above all the fact people had fun even among the worst restrictions! Finish is great!

  6. Thanks Ketha ... yes the bottom line is people still enjoyed their day to day life .. it was tough .. it was struggle .. but I wouldn't hesitate to go back to that era if given a choice .. we had peace in mind atleast!