Much ado about turning 21

Mrinalini finished unwrapping all the presents her friends and cousins had given her. They ranged from dolls to clothes to make-up accessories. The usual stuff given to girls. God, she thought, why can’t people think of different things to give a girl who’s just turned 21?

21, the number suddenly flashed across her mind. Twenty-one, she said aloud. I’m 21. The age when one is a proper adult. When one can vote, in many countries around the world. ‘Pennin thirumana vayadhu,’ (a girl’s right marriage age) according to autorickshaws in Chennai. An all important age, when the girl suddenly gives way to a lady with her new dreams, goals and life.

Then it struck her. I’m 21, so I can now ask them, she thought.
She slept that night thinking of how she will phrase the whole thing and tell her parents.
The next morning, she woke up at 6 30, giving her enough time to get ready well ahead of time for the college bus to come. She went to the kitchen to get her coffee and entered the living room.

Appa was sitting with The Hindu in one hand and steaming hot coffee in the other. An AIR morning kutcheri was playing in the background. Amma was muttering Aditya Hridayam under her breath. Her younger brother Nakul was busy practising for his math exam the next day.
Mrinalini quickly gulped down her coffee and cleared her throat.
Appa, amma, I want to ask you something.’

Appa looked up from his newspaper. Amma came out of the kitchen, ladle in hand. Her lips still kept moving in silent prayer.
‘I have given this a lot of thought,’ began Mrinalini, ‘almost five years, to be exact…’ and her eyes darted to her mother, whose mind she could precisely read. She would be fervently praying that it was not about some guy whom Mrinalini claimed she was in love with, whom she would want to marry. As her mother’s eyes widened, Mrinalini began again.
‘No amma, there is no guy, don’t worry.’
Her mother was visibly relieved. She shook her head and wiped her brow with the edge of her saree pallu, giving a ‘girls-these-days’ look.

Appa, remember, on my 16th birthday, I had asked you to start giving me pocket money?’
Her father stared back at her.
‘Hmm.. what about it now?’
‘And you had said that you would give me a substantial amount when I’m a grown up girl?’
Her father continued looking at her, expressionless.
‘Now that I am 21, I want that substantial amount of money.’

Her father removed his glasses and put them on the table, vigorously rubbing his eyes to take off the strain.
‘What do you want to do with the money?’ he asked her.
Mrinalini braced herself. This was it. She took a deep breath.
‘I am going to invest it. With Aditya, my classmate, you do remember him, don’t you? He is planning to start a consultancy firm. He is willing to start it with me in partnership. You know, I can really put into use whatever I have learnt. With a little money from you and his parents, we can apply for a bank loan for entrepreneurial businesses, and start up. You do not know, but we have most of the plans ready. The required capital has been calculated, we have contacts, the building to have our office (Aditya’s cousin has arranged it)… almost everything is arranged, appa. I can take half the amount you’ll give as a loan, and we can repay it with interest, as you wish. It’s now up to you to keep your promise.’
She breathed again, having spoken so much in one breath.

Amma stared at Mrinalini, open-mouthed. Appa rubbed his chin thoughtfully. Nakul had put down his pen and books and eagerly studied the situation – it seemed extremely interesting.
Appa spoke.
‘Hmm.. how much do you need?’
Mrinalini cleared her throat and loudly announced: ‘4 lakhs, appa.’

Appa looked at her, then at Nakul, and finally at his wife.
All the three burst out laughing, Nakul clutching his stomach and rolling on the floor, dropping his books in the process.
Amma put her hand to her mouth and continued to laugh in her ladylike manner. Appa, on the other hand, had put his paper down and was heartily laughing, his hands occasionally rising up, as if thanking God for the ability to laugh things out.
After what seemed ages, with Mrinalini staring at her family members laughing in maniacal proportions, appa spoke again.
‘Child,’ he said, ‘go inside and take a bath. You don’t have much time left before the college bus comes.’
He wiped tears off his eyes and still quietly chuckled.
Amma went back to the kitchen, quite relieved.
Nakul went back to his work, after a few short but some of the most entertaining moments in his life.
Mrinalini went back to her room and sat on her bed, brooding.
Damn, she thought. 21 isn’t a great age when people start respecting you, after all.

P.S.: Slightly inspired by the fact that my dear friend turns 21 today. Happy Birthday, I.!! Don't know what you've been wanting so much in life, girl, but hope you get everything you want this year!
P.P.S.: Here it comes. Don't know how much you enjoyed it or how good it is, but I tremendously enjoyed writing it, spending so much time on a story after a long time.


dante said...

i was half expecting the gal to ask her dad "appa, coffee'la chakkarai righta irukka ?" ala the BRU coffe advertisement that used to run on SUN TV...... anyway happy birthday wishes to ur fren ... *grin* .... it's always a pleasure to wish somebody happy bday especially when the person is a gal ....

(p.s. why does the gal have such a funny name ..... would it kill u to use names like muniamma, karupayaee etc ... and u haven't said whether i can join the group for kayaking ... *pouts* .... )

Dheepa said...

For parents their children are always "kids" matter how much ever they grow up

Nice story


S m i t h a said...

:D good one
albeit, felt disappointed when she said ‘No amma, there is no guy, don’t worry.’ :(

rsubras said...

actually i was thinking, that the girl would ultimately say that aditya and I gonna start joint venture and will ultimately bcome life partner or something like that..novel way to tell love nu ninaichen

but u've turned this into a comedy :) actually i joined those ppl in laughing at the poor mrninalini...paavam antha ponnu :)

Vani Viswanathan said...

hehe..shall pass on the wishes!
and btw, we didn't and won't go to ecp at all, so no, you can't join us! :(


Vani Viswanathan said...

s m i t h a,

novel way to tell love?? LOL, i hope my stories never turn that predictable!!

rsubras said...

vani...ovvoru thaba vum en blog va va nu koopidanuma x-( u r missing for a very long time

Anonymous said...

I cant saying nothing., all im doing now is smile. Happy birthday to your friend.


~phobiac~ said...

hey Vani...u shud've made Mrins the youngest kid in ur story...

Veetulaye chinna payana irukkara torture yenakku thaan theriyum... 24 yrs aagiyum innum kiddo treatment thaan...cha yenna worstu ulagamappa ithu !!!

~phobiac~ said...

hey btw yaaru un b'day frnd !??... teat-ku koopuduveenga illa ?!? oosi treat-na naanga ulagaththye suththi varuvom !!!

the woman said...

What's so great about turning 21? I was married by then... sigh. *flash back* *BIG SIGH*

I think the name Mrinalini is unique. Nice story.

Harish said...

WHAT!?! You mean by the end of this November, I still wont be madhichufied by anyone? :(

after a long time, me really enjoyed a story of urs :) nothing abstract, simple n to the point.. adhaan un style

lok said...

Superb!!!! aanalum 4-lackh konchom over than.. ;) ( total comedy track. I'm just thinking.. instead of girl.. vadivelu in that role with usal vadivelu slang. )

Vani Viswanathan said...

Sorry, but I do read the posts.. just don't comment on them! So somehow or the other, I know what you're all up to in your blog! ;)

Sure, I passed on your wishes to my friend, and she said thanks!! :)

Vani Viswanathan said...

aiyooo. u missed it! pizza treat over!! :D

Of course turning 21 is a big thing!! :) Well, and you already enjoyed your big day even before you turned 21... that's pretty cool! ;)

Vani Viswanathan said...

LOL... i know! besides, some people won't be respected however old they are... guess you are in that category! ;)
And thank God, you understood this story!! :)

hehe.. technically only 2 lacs.. the rest on loan~!~

~phobiac~ said...

hello hello hello !.. ithu bongu !!... velaike aagaathu....venumna vani, yen pera solli innuru treat vaangalaame !!

Priya said...

Reminds me of the time when I actually told my dad (ofcourse in a normal conversation - not sarcastic, no malice) --- just a puzzled "Why do I have to wait till you die Appa, Why cant I have the 7 lakhs now?"

LOL :-)