“Manu chetta, that’s the 27th peg you’re taking this Christmas.”
“Twenty-seventh! How do you know! Bullshit! Twenty-seven is a long stretch of your imagination. Don’t think I’d buy it.”
“You want to hear out the split-up!”
“What split-up Divya! You exaggerate a lot. How can I ever take 27 pegs in a week?”
“Well, how many did you take the day before your college closed for the holidays? That evening, with your friends?”
“Not a drop more from my usual stuff.”
“Usual stuff! Bah! That means, your measurement of 2.5 which by universal standard is 3! Well, I am not in a mood to fight over that. But mind it, one of these days, I am going to take your damned peg measure to the Legal Metrology department. Leave it now.”
“Sure. But..but…keeping a tab on the booze a husband consumes! Down to the number of pegs! That’s gross Divya, a disgrace to any decent family!”
“O cut the crap man. You had gettogether parties almost every day during the Christmas vacation. On the 24th, you took to sentimentalizing over Jesus suffering on the cross two thousand and nineteen years ago, the same evening! Reasonable I thought. A week later, you took to it again, saying you’re tagging yourself with His resurrection. Fine, I believed, until I googled it and found that Christmas and New year have nothing to do with crucifixion or resurrection!!! You duped me. Now you are holding your 27th peg!”
“Divya!!! I… I.. I don’t know… You counted up to 27!!!”
It was not long ago Divya stormed into my room and with her eyes fixed on eternity began to cant: “Experience the purest natural, blended with the finest…”
“Woooowww! Divya! Bible? Which book dear? Psalm number?” I rose to my feet in reverence.
“My foot!” Divya shouted. “Yesterday when I checked the vodka in the kitchen, it was filled up to that level in the bottle, I mean, up to that line on the wrapper. Curse me, I was early to bed and see where it had sunk to when I woke up today!” She began to cant again: “‘The distilling and flavoring of vodka is an age-old Swedish tradition!’ That means the drink has dropped to the 5th line on the same bloody wrapper! You took a deep swig taking advantage of my early sleep!”
“You’re crazy Divya! You’re plain crazy! You memorized all those lines!!!”
Divya has a razor-sharp memory.
If I ask her whether she has any idea about a scrap of paper I tossed off my window on a chilly December night in 2003, she would read to me its contents. If I ask her how much have I borrowed from her since our marriage 22 years ago, she would toss a figure down to anapaisa. In seconds. She’s a walking search engine at home for all of us. Well, not for everything. Who is the 2nd President of India? Uh-oh! Silence. She doesn’t spend her talent on trash.
Still, mmm…come closer, I’ll let you into a family secret. This devil of a wizard has a chink in her armoury. Yeah, her talent for recalling things, events and people from the past snaps in a very peculiar area. Want to know it?
Come to our home. The first thing that may stun you is the sight of that huge collection of movie CDs stacked on the shelf beneath our TV. Be warned mate before you check them out; you are gonna shellshocked.
36 copies of Meeshamadhavan, 54 copies of Oru CBI Diarykurippu, 81 copies of Thenmavin kombatthu etc etc. What the hell! You wonder and turn to me.
Are you into some shady business? You ask me. No.
It’s just that my wife forgets the movies she watches, immediately after. What do they call the condition in the medical texts, I don’t know.
Sometimes Divya likes to watch movies from theatres. No problem, we drive out. But what happens to the poor woman after a show? If you could somehow get into her mind, you’d see the actors, – Mammootty, Mohanlal, and the whole pantheon – the plot, the rising action, denouement, climax, anti-climax, humour, slapstick, tragedy, all lining up patiently, peacefully, resignedly – lemming-like – only to dive deep one by one into oblivion forever.
She forgets everything movie-ish.
Last month we went to watch the movie, Helen. Know what happened? She liked the plot, suspense and all, and even commented, ‘this is one hell of a movie.’ But just as she got out of the theatre, Divya’s eyes fell on a garrulous poster of ‘Helen.’ She just couldn’t understand. “Why didn’t we go to that movie!” “Amma, please don’t make a scene again. We just watched the same, ” muttered my embarrassed daughter.
Our local CD rental shop is making good money out of my wife’s condition. Last week, Divya returned the movie, Sachin, paid the rent, thanked the boy at the counter, turned around and stumbled across the billboard of Sachin.
“Wow!!! Isn’t that a new movie?”
“Yes,” the boy replied equally surprised.
“Is it available!!! Oh, please don’t say it has gone out.”
Divya pleaded with all her heart to the stunned boy at the counter, who was still holding Sachin in his hand, which this crazy woman had just returned. The boy was new in the rental shop and didn’t know the proper procedures to part with Sachin the sixth time in a week to the same customer.
This was the conversation I overheard last week at home.
“Amma, ‘Oru CBI diarikkuruppu! You took that movie again!”
“Yes, Ammu. They told me that Mammootty is a CBI officer in the movie who solves cases in a unique way. Could be interesting!”
“But Amma, we watched that a hundred times already. It is a 1988 movie. They have made two more sequels to it. You have seen them in all possible orders. Please amma!”
‘You mean, I have seen it!”
“Eighty five times, Amma! And every time you watch it, you get to the edge of this sofa biting your nails,” Ammu points to the heavily caved-in edge of our sofa, “wondering who could be the murderer.”
“And who is the murderer?”
Any joke can turn sour after watching it three or four times. Not for Divya. She could guffaw watching a comic scene a hundredth time until the actors involved get so embarrassed that they don’t know whether this particular audience of a woman is seriously amused or laughing at their attempts to rouse laughter!
Thirty-five times I went through the humiliation of my wife slapping me on the back when Shobhana screams out: “Vidamatte… ayogya naaye….” in the movie, Manichithrathazhu. “I knew it! I knew it Manu chetta from the beginning it was either Shobhana or Mohanlal who is the Nagavalli! See, it is Shobhana! What a twist! Oh, what a surprise!” I’d look blank at her, pocketing the pain she had inflicted on my back.
Recently her prowess to recall the storyline of movies got so shortened that, Divya couldn’t make out why Mohanlal in the movie Kilukkam makes such an emotional fuss at the end of the movie when he sees Revathy getting off the train and yells: ‘Coolie’.
“Does Coolie have a special meaning? Symbolic!!!”
Finally, I took Divya to a doctor. Well, he told me I needn’t have to worry about her special condition. Since she has a superhuman memory, she is bound to suffer in some areas.
“In this case, it is movies. Should you be bothered about that?”
“Ehm…doctor, can you shift this memory problem from ‘movies’ to some other area using medicine?
So next Christmas.
Divya would catch me with a drink in hand. “Manu chetta, you are drinking brandy!!!”
I’d jolt from my seat suspecting the efficacy of the medication for a long moment. Then Divya would continue.
“You into booze! That’s news to me! I never thought you’d ever take alcohol in your life! You like its taste?”
I’d groan, puckering my face. “Well Divya, this is yucky! Like coal tar. I don’t understand what people like in this. I won’t touch it again even with the end of a pole. This is the first and the last peg in my life. I hate it.”
“Oh, my poor…” she would say.
Next day, we’d live the same bit, and play the same reel of dialogue. What a life that’d be!