Nair wasn’t happy that particular day.
Today was Vishu, the traditional Kerala new year, and had he been at his home in Kerala today, with his dear mother, he would have been awakened early in the morning and taken to the Puja room, his eyes gently shut by his mother’s loving hands. The aroma of incense would waft to his nose, and the strains of a melodious bhajan would croon at his ears, and his mother would release his eyes to let him view the gloriously decorated deity, surrounded by vibrant yellow flowers, fruits and lamps. This would have been his first sight that year, or his Vishukanni, and that would have determined the fate of his entire year.
But he was not at home, and instead was at his rented apartment in Bangalore, with his two other bachelor room mates. At around 8 in the morning, he had awakened to the screeches next door, the neighbors discussing a Sambar recipe in tones that was deemed right for such matters.
As he opened his eyes, he focused automatically on the partially open bathroom door before him, where his roommate Yasin, stood after a nice steamy bath dressed in nothing more than a thin white towel that had soaked up enough water to attain the sufficient transparency required to provide Nair with what could be termed as a direct view of Yasin’s sleek figure.
“Sala (Dog), you are my Vishu Kanni now”, he said grouchily at Yasin.
Yasin looked perplexed for a moment. Then a knowing smile spread across his face.
“That’s not good you know,” said Yasin with a drawl. “Last time someone saw me as a Vishu Kanni, he died a horrible death in a truck accident!”.
“What! You can’t be serious!” Nair’s face twisted in fear.
“Yes, but another guy just fell of his bike. So maybe it won’t be that bad. But, it’s not without reason that there are such traditions. They may even be a scientific truth to why there is a Vishu kani tradition. You should have been careful you know….”
Nair hurled a ton of abuses, walked into the bathroom, changed into a clean white shirt and came out.
He entered the hall to find Yasin reading the paper.
“Oh, good. When did we start getting the newspaper?” asked Nair opening the classifieds that lay near Yasin.
“We haven’t started getting the newspaper” said Yasin, his eyes still in the paper.
“Then what are we reading?”
“This is the neighbors papers”
“What, they lent it to you?”
“Well, sort of. I’ll return it tomorrow, when the next paper comes. They won’t even know the difference.”
“WHAT?” Nair said closing the paper.
“You’ve heard the neighbors…its just food and TV, they don’t read the papers. Idiots. We mustn’t waste paper. It’s called going green. Here you can have the front page.”
“I don’t want your stolen paper. What do you think of my shirt?”
“You wanna look good when you fall of the bike?
“Don’t laugh too much. If I die today, I’ll come back and haunt you, mind you. It’s Preethi’s birthday. We are going out today evening after office.”
“Ah. Impressing your lady love? So sweet. Such a sweet courtship. So many costly dinners. Does she know that you two are lovers? OK, OK..don’t get wild…its always better than getting rejected after proposing. OK, don’t hit me…ouch..let me go…what is this…you’re a huge guy man…you don’t realize your brute strength…your shirt is getting crumpled…such a nice shirt that too.”
“You think so?” asked Nair releasing Yasin from his bear hug.
“Of course…if you are into formals.”
“Oh..I think she’s not”
“See…I just saved you. A true friend I am I say. What happened to your green T-shirt?”
“I have it still. You think that’s better? I’ll go change.”
Vignesh came out of his room with a box of shoes.
“Hey man. What’s with all the cleaning up?” asked Yasin.
“I bought new shoes yesterday”, said Vignesh “Just throwing out all the old ones.” Vignesh disappeared into the kitchen.
Nair walked in dressed in a green shirt now.
“How about this?” he said..
“What? Oh, ya super, man” said Yasin “It’s a bit faded, but that’s not a big issue.”
“Faded? Shit…I’m going to change.”
“Why? It’s really good, man. What’s a bit of a fade?”
“Yuck, I can’t wear faded old clothes like you do.” He shouted as he walked back into his room “Still wearing stinky clothes from school.”
“Vignesh, da,” called Yasin into the kitchen.
“What? You want some tea too, right?” Vignesh answered from the kitchen.
“Oh… How you read my mind. But I also wanted to tell you…don’t throw those shoes…give it to me.”
“You want my old shoes?”
“They’re good shoes, no? Now I don’t have to get new shoes. I think I’m in a lucky phase. Last week, Senthil went to America and didn’t have space in his bag. I got three sets of UK made underwear.”
“Yeah, but that was brand new, right”
“Well, sparingly used. I just gave it a wash and it’s as good as new now.”
Nair came in with a light pink T-shirt.
“Pink? Seriously man?” asked Yasin. “Are you telling this girl that you’re smart or that you’re gay?”
“What? Pink says your modern…metrosexual I think they call it.”
“Yeah right. Metrosexual is just a Homosexual in the closeset” said Yasin.
“Closeset alla….closet.” corrected Vignesh as he came in with the tea. Nair left the room once again. “Are we playing the shirt changing game?”
“I was Nair’s Vishu Kani”, said Yasin with a wink.
“Nair.” said Vignesh into the room
“What man?”, replied Nair from his room.
“Are you trying to impress Eeshitha? That’s why all this dressing up? Allengil koora adiche nadakkunnona (Otherwise he dresses like a cockroach)”
“Eeshitha? Who’s that” asked Yasin “I thought his girlfriend was Preethi”
“Eeshitha? Fucker, don’t make me say anything.” growled Nair from his room.
“ Aliya (Brother)…are you a Casanova now? Dating two girls at a time.” said Yasin
“Man, Eeshita is our second-line manager. Manager’s manager. Imagine how old she is.“ said Nair as he walked in.
“So? She’s one hot babe, no,” offered Vignesh. “Punjabi kudi with American accent. Tall, beautiful, husky voice, beautiful hair. We have a team meeting with her today, remember. That’s why he’s dressing up. Not for Preethi.”
“She’s married and has a kid also” said Nair his face twisting with disgust, “”How can you say like this about married womans?”
“Ohhh…so that’s why you were streaming that MILF video, yesterday” said Yasin, shaking his head..
“Fucker,” shouted Nair “First you became my Vishu Kanni, now you spoil my reputation, you come here.”
“Hey, hey…just joking…..don’t…what are you doing….am I a chair? Vignesh, you should stop feeding this buffallo with your cooking. Laugh, laugh, while I am getting crushed to death.”
“Nair”, said Vignesh between his guffaws, “Yasin was your Vishu Kanni? Then better to forget Preethi and dress up for Eeshita only for your personal firing. I heard that at least 6 people will be fired this quarter,”
“What,” said Nair as he fell off Yasin’s back in shock.
“What. You think she has come all the way from San Jose to see Bangalore on your cycle?”
“Shit…I will change to formals only,” he said scrambling to his room.
“Firing? Really? Or are you messing with him”, asked Yasin.
“No, they are firing, In big numbers. We still don’t know who is getting fired. And its not just at NJN Technologies man. Supposedly the whole industry is affected. Some new Obama policy. Its like the opposite of outsourcing. But of course, why should jobless people like you worry about jobs. How can you wear someone else’s underwear man? Don’t you have any self respect?”
“Can’t afford it. Self respect, shame. All too costly.”
“Then get a job, man!”
“To buy self-respect?”
“NO! To buy your own underwear….your own shoes…A good phone!”
“What’s wrong with my phone. It can make and receive calls…I even discovered the other day that it has a torch light….look…look at this…”
“Or your own house, or a car,” Vignesh’s eyes were now distant. “Nobody will marry you if you don’t have all this.”
“Yes yes…”, continued Yasin, “an IPOD, a car…a home…a trendy phone with half a dozen features that I would never dream of using…for what man…for what? To feel like an achiever?”
“What…i don’t want to be a loser….”
“Well you already lost that girl didn’t you.”
“Yes, and why? Cos I didn’t have any of this. She’d rather marry someone who could give her all that and much much more.”
“Yes, your true love couldn’t give her happiness…”
“Exactly my point.”
“And my point is that you are always barking up the wrong tree. I am happy to be a loser. The winner, that is you, works eight hours a day to buy this lovely house and then shells out half his salary to pay the monthly EMI, while me, a.k.a loser, chills out here for a measly rent. We still have all the same things in life. And you still haven’t got the girl”
“Like you’ll get one. You think any of your girl friends will stay with you and marry you.”
“I don’t care, brother. They’re with me now. If they wanna marry their worker slave, let them be my guest. Thanks for traveling the Yasin Express…hope you had a nice journey.”
“Short and quick, no doubt” Vignesh added.
“Ha…yes…full of surprises.”
“You are a fool, you know that? Fine, be a loser and wear my underwear. Shameless.”
“Shame, self respect are all grand concepts that are purely man made” said Yasin with a grave expression.
“Wiisdom…” said Vignesh.
“In most other cases, you must forget them temporarily whenever necessary.” continued Yasin “Especially when your primary income is from online poker and your friends are throwing out costly under garments. I am just a happy loser…while you are a sad over achiever.
“Then let us drink to our differences”, replied Vignesh lifting his glass of team. “Where is this guy, Nair!” called Vignesh into the room, “You want to be late for your firing? Hurry up, I’m leaving.”
“You know what” shouted Yasin to Nair “I think you should wear that first shirt only…the white one. It was actually quite OK. Now that I think of it. Needn’t have changed.”
A loud abuse was shrieked in response. Vignesh and Yasin exchanged a smile and drank their tea.