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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Tuesday, 22 August 2006

Snippets of a novel manuscript that I also posted a few entries below on the spinsters and Mrs. Santamaria.

This is a snippet of a piece of multicultural fiction made up of Indian housewives in a small working-class neighbourhood in Klang town, Malaysia, similiar to where I grew up. The scene defies this classic picture of a Norman Rockwell illustration, but the mood and intensity of gossip stays the same. The print is messed up once more as I lifted it out of Microsoft Word.

...The rolling pin women, were in reality, a heavy breed of leftover housewives, who now marked the harem of jelly-bellied husbands. The frumpy females secretly had the word ‘dropout’ marked on their school accumulative cards. Now, they fancied themselves, a sly bit on the career side, having created an automatic self-promotion system where biscuit packers were turned into instant supervisors, ward aides into illegal nurses and temporary teachers into headmistresses.

“From where you heard my daughter is working in the canteen?”

Here an angry snort would follow.

“Don’t talk nonsense! She is getting good pay, supervising 400 people in the factory!”

“I know people are saying my son is just a mechanic but you wait and see…after his bonus he is going to buy over the WHOLE gigantic business.”

Naturally, the rolling-pin women were manipulated, encouraged and lauded by ‘pregnant’ husbands: all of whom spotted belches in their windpipes and a bottomless pit of permanently, undissolved beer under their navels. The promotions in questions were designed to shock the neighbours and compete with the slightly upper-class Santamarias and aloof Anthonysamys....

Catch that loudspeaker voice on a nice Friday morning when the vegetable monger had just been.

“Did you hear about Mrs. Magdalena de Costa, you know, the one whose useless husband got himself dead roaring drunk and was throwing chairs at some political analyst fool at the Tequila coffee shop last Friday? Pay day, what! Money in the pocket and thinking he’s some big shot! Real samsu barbarian… Behaving like it was his grandfather’s shop! And who is going to pay for all those chairs, tell me?

The insider information continued to be long and merciless.

“Apparently, our de Costa friend, who knows out of misery or whatever, is playing nothing but Suspicion by Elvis Presley, day in and day out. People are saying one screw is loose in the head. Another is going to drop off. And some more, playing it at high pitch volume. And even worse, she is driving Mrs. Lingam next door, bonkers! I tell you, SIMPLY BONKERS! Can you imagine that?

The ruling flibbertigibbet of this parochial locality and who had now contributed to this haphazard hogwash was Mariammah Koshy, an inquisitive loquacious woman and currently, the street’s wealthiest resident. She had a reputation for ‘lording it over the rest’; what with her newly-renovated corner house, boasting a monster garden and specially imported turf grass.

Still, for an important illustration of volume and speed, consider too, the encyclopaedic spread of Mrs.Thanaletchumy Muthusamy’s 40D inch bust! It charted up a military, hardy and formidable presentation, from whichever angle, you cared to study it. Now, add on to the satisfied picture, the interesting prospect of a fat, flying plait and heavy-duty California raisins for a pair of sturdy nipples.

After all, the fullness of Thanaletchumy’s ample bosom, like wildfire rumours, hinted of many things. Her bust, packed clumsily together like fat, misshapen gunny sacks, were always trying to rush ahead of her.

The jellyfish tentacles of her uneven, fleshy mounds lolled about with unsure direction; then suddenly took eager astral flights before drooping down again and as with all bad news, finally heading for a downward parachute spin in slow motion.

Now Thanaletchumy with her excitable 40D inch bust offered a helpful interjection and a counterfeit Bugs Bunny smile that complimented her slightly moustached lip. Like her ‘plentiful charms’, her voice too was loud, full-bodied and voluminous.

“After all, you don’t know about Mrs. Lingam, isn’t it? The thing is this poor lady is already suspecting that her husband is keeping another woman with two miserable kids in this kampong place, you know, where is this hideout, uh? Ahh yes, Padang Jawa!

Thanaletchumy studied her star struck brood. Her plaits now performed a succession of gymnastic feats. Her head rolled about like an amateur classical dancer. Her fingers practised the usual Hawaiian twist gestures. Her raised hands exposed two Pluto circles of sticky sweat.

Finally exhausted, they called for applause. Her listeners, on the other hand, cursed impatiently for the predictable scene to be over. Thanaletchumy lingered for an ovation. Finally panting, her voice dropped to a low whisper.

“For five months, she has been living with this worry but he won’t admit his crime. Instead, the big hero is threatening to wallop poor Mrs. Lingam, give her one flying kick and chuck her clothes out. And furthermore, now with Mrs. De Costa’s ENCOURAGEMENT, she is thinking of packing up and returning to her mother for good in Madras. After all, she was only here on a visitor’s visa!”

“Thanaletchumy felt as regal as a queen. Her chest rose to the imaginary Himalayas. Her ambition was to aim for the Everest and plant a flag somewhere in her deep lost cleavage. She added on a social commentary for good measure.

“First, blindly marry and come…Which man will want her now, tell me?”

“Mrs Mariammah Koshy, fed-up with the stolen limelight and Thanaletchumy’s ramblings, had decided enough was enough and that it was now time for her to throw her weight about with some surety of dignity. Her emergency trump card strode out from behind the curtains.

“Tell the girl if she is planning to go to India, to hurry up, for God’s sake! Otherwise, she’ll be here next year itself and that useless God-forsaken bum would have beaten her up, nicely black and blue. Once it’s October, they will close the bookings and you cannot get any ticket from KL to India. Impossible, I’m telling you!

“Last year, my doctor husband and I tried. Oh God, how we tried! With the best connections available, mind you! What a headache! MAS cannot, Air India cannot, Air Lanka also out; the whole works. In the end, from all this trouble of course, we had to fly first class. And from the stress for nothing, I caught high fever and was hospitalised.”

Mrs. Mariammah Koshy sucked in a long, deliberate breath and waited for what seemed an eternity. She would torment her star-struck group, working up to a standing ovation.

Thanaletchumy stamped her size 8 feet in frustration. Her shiny new varnish called You Sexy Vamp You disguised the ugly yellowish hues of her chipped toenails with its flamingo pink passions. She had bought it from the nearby Ocean supermarket for just RM$1-50. She had heard of a similar cheap brand that had exploded like firecrackers onto a woman’s nose and damaged ‘the finer nasal interiors’.

Of course, she could only pray to her various deities, Lord Ganesha, in particular that her nose, a plump circular blob would stay prosperous and attractive, all the way into eternal splendour, where she hoped to be reincarnated for good, as a Revlon supermodel. In her absent-mindedness, she was unable to remember the heavily-censored Carry On films shown over Radio Television Malaysia in the 1980s

But not that anyone had noticed, anyway. Her hangover breasts made a sudden plunge into Never-Never land. They sank, subdued. Her nipples debated if they should attempt an underwater snorkel, for a change. Spontanous mountain-climbing Thanaletchumy-style could prove highly strenuous. The darkie twins were starting to feel like beanstalks.

Thanaletchumy hated it at times like this, when the gossips ignored her existence. Very clever, isn’t it. Very smart… First like big-shots, mind you, voting her in as general-secretary of the informal Rolling Pin Beauty-Queen association.

Then, making her do all the “donkey jobs” Just because she was good at snooping and specialised in undercover activities. Just because she was excellent at extracting information from the hardened of the wise. Just because she was always admiring Johnny English and Simon Templar. First, praising her. Calling her the CIA, the FBI, then God-knows-what-not; then making her do all the filthy work. No shame, these people. No shame at all.

After all, she never asked for much.

She thanked God for her sickly husband who had mastered the art of managing the bandaged limb as he was forever falling down from his motorcycle and skipping work. She thanked God for her obese 11-year old daughter who was never invited to any of that stuck-up (“who the hell does she think she is?”) Deborah Madonna Santamaria’s exclusive barbecue parties.

Don’t think the wounded mother hadn’t noticed. Just watch out, by the way.
One of these days, she was going to teach that woman properly.
Give her hell and high water.

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