A

group of street children were playing in a puddle of water. They were completely oblivious to the busy evening traffic. They took turns to jump in to the muddy water and laughed out loud when it splashed on their clothes. There were two boys and a girl and their giggles grew louder after every jump.

Sam grew up in Chennai in a large, palatial house with wide expansive gardens and went overseas for vacations. He was assertive, athletic and a self-proclaimed tech geek.

“The world is falling apart, totally!" said Sam and pushed his nerdy glasses closer to his eyes. His animated eyes looked bigger through the thick lenses. “And, do you know that in 20 years, forty percentage of our country’s population will be living in cities? Imagine the mess that it would be?"

As they entered Pantheon road, Priya distanced herself from his rants and stayed fixated on the children who were playing near the outer wall of the Museum Theatre complex,

“My great grandfather owned most of Pantheon road one time #awesomeness", he tweeted while trying to avoid dashing into an old man who seemed unsteady and drunk.

“Priya, I don’t know why you don’t get on to Twitter. We can be in constant touch then," said Sam.

The little girl dressed in a green ‘pavadai’ (skirt) had very little hair on her head; perhaps she had had her hair tonsured at a temple not too long ago. Her mischievous eyes sparkled like diamonds reflecting the lights from the mall nearby.

“Pri? Are you listening?" said Sam and nudged her. Priya frowned at being pulled out of her thoughts.

“Isn’t she so happy?" said Priya and continued looking at the girl.

“She looks free, without any fear."

“Sorry, what were you saying?"

Their conversations had been bumpy for a couple of weeks now. Priya and Sam had been dating for the last two years and just completed their twelfth board exams. Sam got through the KIT entrance exams and would most likely join the prestigious KIT Madras. Sam grew up in Chennai in a large, palatial house with wide expansive gardens and went overseas for vacations. He was assertive, athletic and a self-proclaimed tech geek.

Priya was an average student but lived among the clouds, always lost in thoughts. Her beautiful face and almost flawless skin had every boy in school yearning for her attention.

They were on their way to attend a stand-up comedy show with a good line-up of local stars. The show was put up by a popular city based theatre company. They loved to go to their productions. However, Priya was never a fan of stand-up comedies and their liberal use of expletives. It required some persuasion by Sam to get Priya to join him.

As they entered the premises, they were stopped by the security guard, an elderly man possibly in his sixties with a pencil moustache, a style statement of yesteryear politicians belonging to the anti-brahmin parties.

“A #mustache is there 2 tell the world, ‘there's something wrong with my face. Here's something else to look at’ #LOL," Sam tweeted with his left hand, while juggling to find change from the glove compartment.

The road leading to the parking lot was wet from a sudden downpour earlier in the evening and sparkled like yellow crystals, reflecting the street lights above. Priya always loved coming to the theatre. “Sam, do you know that this was the second museum built by the English in India? It’s a rare specimen of the Italianate style of architecture," she said animatedly.

Sam did not pay attention to her and clicked the wiper handle, to remove the yellow neem leaves that had fallen on the windshield. He parked his Suzuki Swift between two identical steel grey BMWs.

“Pri, pops has promised to buy me one of these devils if I do something cool this year. I have an idea to make, like a tech assistant that would keep track of my schedules… maybe something like what Iron Man has. I have a prototype on my desktop, but it would be so cool to do it on a mobile phone," he said. Priya smiled affectionately at him. She always knew he was a technical genius, but flawed on the emotional side. They quickly walked towards the stairs that led to the ticketing desk.

“Dei Machaan! How are you doing da?" said Sam and gently slapped a fat boy with a clumsy hairdo. “It’s been more than 2 years," Sam continued. Just realizing whom he had run into, the big fellow gave Sam a bear hug. “How are you da? Heard that you got through KIT, stud only you are" he said. Sam gave a toothy smile and enquired, “So what are your plans da?"

“No plans da. I might join some engineering college. I really hate to study. I am gonna kill my dad one day for pushing me into this," he said with angst written all over his face.

Sam, do you sense that something is not right between us? I have had this feeling that we are drifting apart for some time now.

Sam and Priya moved closer to the ticket counter and exchanged their online booking forms with the person at the desk. He gave Sam two 500 rupees tickets in exchange, “I hate to sit in the front, why don’t you ever listen to me?" said Priya irritated. Sam ducked his face, did not reply and moved closer to the theatre doors.

“Why do you behave so cheeky and careless, whenever you are in a tight spot? I hate it! Just hate it" said Priya. She was livid, but extracted no replies from Sam.

The theatre was pitch dark and Sam had moved ahead three steps before her. A guest walking beside her guided her through the steps downwards to the front seats.

Sam held on to her seat while she sat down. The seat made a squeaky noise while she attempted to sit. Sam giggled at the weird noise and held her hand to calm her down. Priya snatched her hand from him. “Chill babes! That was not a crime" he said and tried to justify, but Priya was in no mood to reconcile. The house lights came on and it threw a yellowish hue on Priya’s face and shoulders.

“My #GirlFriend was mad at me so I put a cape around her neck and said "Now you're Super Mad! #Joke", he tweeted.

The house lights were switched off very abruptly now, and that irked Priya, “people are still coming, shucks… may be they should have just dimmed the lights a bit".

A spot light splashed a circular blinding white on the centre of the stage, while a loud rough voice introduced the performers for the evening and announced that the proceeds from the show would go to the welfare of abandoned women . “Well, if they stopped making sexist remarks now, they would have done a lot for the girls that they are trying to help" said Priya. She was not impressed.

Sam stared at the stage, mindful of Priya’s irritations. He suddenly arced himself in a quick jumpy motion and reached out to his phone.

“Seems like every time we get together to have a good time, I ruin everything for us. Why would she not hate me?" tweeted Sam and cross eyed her. She did not pay attention to him.

@MokkaJoke was the first one to respond, “@samy dude is everything ok?"

A young stocky person wearing a red jacket walked on to the stage, and the audience erupted whistling and clapping.

“So mother fuckers you haven’t forgotten me," as soon as the comedian mouthed his opening line, the audience hooted and whistled more.

“Vannakkam Chennai!! It’s great to be back in Chennai. I see a lot more white girls in the audience today. I did not know that I was popular among Caucasians. I thought I became famous by insulting my fellow south Indians".

Priya was not very pleased, “why is it that stand-up comedians have to swear and say really insulting lines to be funny? Why can’t they crack some smart nice jokes?" Sam turned to her and smiled. “I am not done with you yet!" she said keeping a straight face, but paused and winked at him. Sam held her hand firmly and breathed a sigh of relief. She leaned onto his side and rested her face on his shoulder.

“My #girlfriend has 206 bones in her body. Now 207. sorry 206. Now 207. Now 206. 207 phew... :P", he tweeted with a cheeky smile, making sure that she did not see it.

“@HailLiverpool tweeted back in a jiffy, “@Samy macha what happens to your bone da then? #Lol #FacePalm". Sam did not reply.

The comedian in the red jacket continued, “So, how many curd rice eating Brahmins in the hall?" and many folks in the auditorium volunteered with much glee, but Sam ducked.

“Bro!" the comedian was pointing the mike at Sam, “you got to be kidding? Sitting in the front seat and ducking? What were you thinking? What’s your name Rambo?" Sam and Priya became stiff. Sam didn’t expect to be picked. With a brave face he said, “Sam".

“Sam? Tam Brahm boy? This is lot of fun. What’s your actual name bro?" the comedian maintained a cocky smile.

“Sambamurthy" Sam replied in a low voice and the audience erupted. Even Priya couldn’t control her laughter. Yes, Sam’s actual name is Sambamurthy, named after his grandfather, and he hated it. He joined the laughter too while he burned in embarrassment inside.

“I was born to a Maharashtrian father and Tamil Brahmin mother. I studied all my school days in the then Madras. I hate to call it Chennai," Red Jacket rued.

“So I grew up very confused. My mornings started with my dad and mom competing on what I should be eating for breakfast. Poha or Idli? Khichidi or dosa? So, I just ended up eating both. Now you know why I am so fat." The audience was now laughing even for his inane jokes.

“So, I have watched a lot of Tam Brahm families at close quarters and they are totally messed up like mine. These guys are more bothered about bowel movements than any race in the world. They are ‘piyure’ vegetarians but will ask for an egg biriyani in a non-veg restaurant, as if eggs came from the holy tulsi plants in their backyard."

An elderly gentleman got hiccups from laughing hysterically, but the lady next to him, maybe his wife, gave him stern disapproving looks.

“Alcohol and other intoxicants are officially taboo, so they spend several generations guzzling gallons of Horlicks."

“The Tam Brahms have a funny school system, it is 10+2+IIT+USA. The Tam Bram journey to IIT begins in the womb. When the baby utters his first words, the overjoyed parents would hear it something like seven sevens are 49, and ecstatically acknowledge that ‘maks’ was in his blood and he would be the next Ramanujan."

“In case you didn’t get that, it is Maths". The audience cracked up again.

Now Priya also joined the laughter parade.

“So, all they want you to do is to go to IIT or at least some engineering college if you were a dud. Post IIT, you have to go to the US and do a Masters. So, now that’s done you will have to get a job at Intel, a Honda City car and an apartment in San Jose".

“Now his fame is spreading in their mighty big world, Mylapore. The Jaadagam (horoscope) wielding mamis (aunties) at Mylapore temple, with veritable masters in strategic alliances would have gotten wind of him. His parents and mamis in a strategic arrangement with cousins living in Ameerica will find a tall, fair, homely, well-educated and disciplined with clean habits girl from BITS Pilani. Incidentally, he will set eyes on her for the first time when they meet briefly at her uncle’s house in Sunnyvale. Once his mom is completely convinced that she can make all 243 variations of rasam, they are married off and the guy breaks his miserable lonely masturbating virgin life for the first time."

“Phew! That’s difficult dudes. How do you keep up?"

Sam never laughed out loud. But, he did have a good time. Red Jacket was followed by three other acts and all were well received by the audience. Sam held Priya’s hand and helped her climb the difficult stairs from the well of the theatre. It was drizzling outside.

“Sam, do you want to take a walk?" Priya insisted.

“Sure, but what if it rains heavily? We don’t have umbrellas?" Sam was cautious.

“Good, we can get wet then. C’mon, don’t be a sissy!" she said and jumped over a puddle of water.

Traffic had subsided outside and the motorists who had been cooped up in small shacks and tea stalls were venturing out like little squirrels indecisively. The citizens of the city, normally starved of rains, become perplexed at the slightest drizzle. Panic and anxiety makes the parents keep their kids at home fearing that they would catch the flu.

“Amma, I am just out of the show and should be back soon," Priya informed her mom, “I will not get wet. Stop treating me like a four year old!"

“My mom! She can drive me nuts!" Priya yelled aloud.

“So anyways, Sam now that you are into KIT you will forget me nah?" Priya inquired with a grin but her eyes searched for him.

“Why would you say that? We can always be connected online and by phone. By the way, you are going away too?" he spurned her concern.

“Sam, do you sense that something is not right between us? I have had this feeling that we are drifting apart for some time now. And please don’t dismiss this like every time!" she said.

“Baby, I never dismiss your concerns. I don’t think there is anything wrong", he said. Sam always felt uneasy with the direction that such conversations took.

“Never under estimate the power of your #Girlfriend. She has the ability to make anything your fault," Sam tweeted when she wasn’t looking.

“Sam, do you see beauty in these children, in art, in music, in anything? I somehow get a feeling that you are also like other boys, very narrow minded, chasing gadgets and cars."

“And what irritates me more is that you react very callous and indifferent whenever I share something that bothers me. You clam up and go stiff. It is not like how we used to be. I think we are drifting apart," Priya egged him on.

“Just called the police on my girlfriend. She hasn't committed a crime, I just want them to come and remind her she has the right to remain silent #Shutup", he tweeted without paying attention to her rants.

“Will you stop tweeting? You are driving me insane!" she cried angrily. “And I am sure you are making some funny comments about me."

“You will never know my importance today. But when I am gone, then you would know. Maybe I should move on. Break up with you today. I thought I could have an adult conversation about this and sort things out. But, you want it this way. Do you even care?"

Sam became stiff, antsy and did not respond.

“Why don’t you speak idiot?" she was livid now. “I am seriously done with you now. I don’t deserve this shit anymore." She did not wait for him to respond. She took some long steps towards an auto that was parked close to the garbage cans and got in.

“Will you say anything at least now?" she looked at him with moist eyes, but Sam did not respond. He bit his teeth hard. He was angry too and felt that she was being unreasonable. Before he could realize what had happened, the auto chased the wind in the other direction.