Real Life Portraits: Venkat Subramanian Alias Manian

Among my handpicked friends, I must say that their age range spans from the babe-in-arms to 94-years-old babe at heart! I enjoy the company of diverse aged friends. I never placed any pressures on my friend to confirm to anything that I believed in or I disbelieved in. I do not judge people, that part of it is a given in my friendship.

My Samskurtham friend Manian, who started as an acquaintance and then, moved on to be my friend was achieved over a span of a year. We had in the beginning just exchanged pleasantries before and after class. This was my interaction level with him. I got to know more about him and his late wife during our joint studies days while we were preparing for the Sanskrit exams.

It was then that I knew his full name was M Venkat Subramanian; but he was popularly known among his family, friends, and colleagues of his sales circle as ‘Manian.’ Among his interest areas are collecting vintage cars and bikes. He is part of the Madras Heritage Motoring Club and other such similar clubs. He drives vintage bikes on exhibition and friendly awareness drives. His latest interest now was centered in investment and mutual funds.

How I met Him and Got Introduced?

I was working full time as a content editor and the weekend Samskrutham language classes was to keep me fully occupied the whole week. I would arrive on Saturday incredibly early to the class from my office. Even during Sundays, I used to be an early arriver. I am generally flanked by female students since I am more comfortable with them because I come from an all-girls school and women only college. It made me so and I am not apologetic about it.

So, I kept my interaction with other girls and rarely spoke to male students. Even if I did, I used to ask a few questions regarding class and lessons with others; but I generally kept to myself. I believe that was all the interactions I had for the better part of the course with this person.

That Sunday Was Different and I Got to Know the Person

Then one of the Sundays, I had arrived early and had some time to kill before class. I was seated under the shade of the main record office in the college. I watched Manian arrive driving his vintage bike. I would have had short conversation about the samskrutham language, when we met outside the class, or while waiting for the Post-Graduate class to get over.

He seemed a pleasant person who talked about his wife with fond memories at the drop of a hat. His wife was named Saraswathi and known as Saras. It is not surprising since it sounded familiar. It is a given fetish among the Brahmin families to have a short list of Female goddess names for the girl child’s namakaranam or naming.

Too Sad to Converse About Passing of His Wife

I understand loss in my life since July 2019. So, I used to be super conscious, not to bring up about this topic even in the passing, also to avoid it as far as possible. I was still in mourning and I wanted to be alone with my sorrow not to publicize it.

Since my focus was not making any friend at that time either; my entire focus was on learning the language and to forget that Amma is no more in my life! Not even as a long distant call connect. Now both, Appa and Amma are no longer even a call away.

Pre-Covid Joint Studies

So, my interaction with my friend Manian happened during our joint study which was during the Pre-covid time when college was gearing up for Samskrutham exam for all courses held in the college. But then, Covid Pandamic broke loose and resultant situation was the cancellation of all the exams.

Eventually, as per Government rule and declaration all the students were awarded a pass and score based on daily weekend assignments, class performance, and based on class attendance. Both of us were the only students who did not get their certificates. He had an eye surgery, and I was undecided to go to college for the certificate!

My Real-Life People’s Portraits

I am a journalist at heart and favored feature writing as a writer. Page 3 is not my favorite spot; but then, writing about people has always been an interesting area of mine. So, whenever I engaged in conversations with anyone, I would let them openly converse unrestricted.

My casual conversation with Manian had been always centered around his wife, her quirks, down the memory lanes of their marriage, tours, trips, vacations, familial interactions, hardships, and good times etc. Of course, there were some interesting snippets from the married life and post-marriage dares between the partners.

My natural tendency in life generally is to ask leading questions to people that I am interested in knowing. So, I specifically questioned him about his relationship with his wife merely to understand with journalistic curiosity. I have not seen My friend Manian’s wife in person because she is not alive now.

Even though she was the victim of the Cancer disease, she was also a brave warrior who fell prey, while being survived by her small cozy and loving family. But the words that My friend used during our conversation about her, described her preferences, choices in life, of course my overblown imagination took over and had created a pencil sketch profile of this fascinating person.

I almost thought this profile that my friend is sculpting for me is another Anne of Green Gables. The Character’s style of seeing the positives even in dire straits, came out beautifully. There was much that was unsaid and left to be read between the lines.

Anne of Green Gables-Like-Saras and Her Married Life | A Borrowed Narration

I thought she was a brave warrior princess. Here was a person who is suffering from Cancer and the pains that she bore thorough difficult times are hardships of her lone self. But then, the family was also suffering and feeling a sense of helplessness. Saras family bearing the pain together could be seen an act of valor. While, my friend was explaining their pleasanter banters between him and his wife, I could hear the underlining sorrow and suppressed despondency. 

My friend Manian, much like my small circle of friends is unique and I accepted him as he was and never pressurized him to be anything; but to be always himself. He is my senior by more than 10 years. So, on one of our conversations when he was recalling about his experience with the Girl-Seeing ritual under traditional format, I could understand him a little and got a peek into the wife he was to marry.

Middle Class Concept of Girl-Boy Seeing Event

He and his wife are from the Middle-class-Iyer Brahmin family setup. Undoubtedly, both the boy and the girl are flanked in conservative circle restricting them to be well-mannered in the social circles. But then, our Manian was more progressive person, more of a ‘do or dare’ kind. Sometimes it works but mostly in conservative settings it can backfire if the chips are not played properly.

He had firmly stated to his parents even before the boy’s side troupe left for the event at the girl’s family house, that if he attended a girl-seeing event, then he will marry only that girl and no one else. I felt like, wow! That is pretty much tying down yourself and to boot shooting yourself on the foot.

Anyway, I felt proud of my friend who decided to honor the lady and be the gentleman of the moment. Even though I felt it was crazy bet on the Life’s Roulette! If it worked out then fine, but if not, it is lifetime hot soup for Manian.

The soup reminded me of the novel “Alice in the Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll. In one of his Nonsense poems sung by the Mock Turtle, “Turtle Soup.” In the 10th Chapter of the novel speaks of the soup that is served hot! I thought I might have to chorus it in for him, while I am bemused. In my typical Mad-Hatter tea party style, I had been a sympathizing listener, while the tea setting merely shifted from one chair to the next chair. It was like going forwards by one step while doing an endless round robin around the table!

Saras was a timid and shy girl who was to be his future partner for life. She was an interesting person given his description of her by my friend. To me she seemed more like ‘Veetela Aeyli Velila Puli’ {At Home a mouse, but outside a Tiger}, kinda of girl, whose bravado seems to be fake it, until you make it.

This is my understanding. Of course, as the story of their 24 years of partnership chiseled the lady and the gentleman’s personalities over the years of living together. How she became a brave and outspoken person while he became an excellent support and a provider of encouragement that was part and parcel of the chemistry between their relationship. 

17 out of 18 Favorable Points in Natal Chart Matchup!

As in the usual conservative circles, first to be matched up are the birth charts. Prior to even photo exchanges or meeting events. 18 matching points are checkouts while checking the boy and the girl natal charts for a favorable match and compatibility between them.

The pair got the thumb up signal with an incredible 17 astrological qualities match stamp out of 18. This meant that their union had got a celestial statement of approval, that the pair is destined to be exemplary if they decide to pair up.

This was in the early days when Girl Seeing was done with the entire family on both sides being present. While the entire family will throw the couple on a microscopic scrutiny regime. They would record for future leisurely chatters every single details of subtle eye contacts and bodily signals shared between the girl and the boy in same room at a distance among many observant eyes.

The female members of the joint family system will have gossip material to mull over on those lazy summer afternoons, while the mangoes are getting pickled. The girl’s side family are super conservative and never heard about blasphemous modernism of boy’s imagining, ‘like wanting to talk with the girl alone!’ 

Movies Reflection of Indian Life | Tam-Brahm Community!

It is much like the 1981 Indian Tamil-language romantic comedy film directed by G. N. Rangarajan, titled as “Meendum Kokila” with lead actors Kamal Hassan and Sri Devi. As Kokila is singing in the girl-seeing event, she gets stuck in a song, then the male lead takes up finishing the song.

Of course, all the sound commotion that came during the event starting from the 4-month-old babe in arms to 91-year-old granny grinding mouth-freshener all contribute to the part of the soundtrack of the song. In my friend’s case, both the conservative fathers of the groom and the bride were scandalized to know that the boy wants to talk to the girl, and that too alone! Scandalous!

After the round of whispers on both sides and a few embarrassed chatters. The family settled the matter of girl and boy meeting alone within the premises. So, eventually all dust settles down while amidst mumbles from older generation females who are serious deciders in the match speak up.

Eventually, the male elders from both the sides agreed to let them talk to each other alone. But then, a chaperone appointed to stay at a safe close distance. This was just in case if things should go out of hands. If advance to the chamber’s kind of situation happens and the girl needed to be rescued without losing face.

Usually, the lady with the loudest voice is sent to watch over these young fledglings. The nervous girl and the assumed cloak of boldness at heart boy make it to the first floor to talk alone. The lady was less inclined to converse given that she is being watched over by all the personnel security arranged; but then my friend was ‘bindaas.’ He was full throttle expressing himself.

The trick is to be the only male member in the family of female overload who have their way of bantering. That kind of upbringing can make a man a talker. But then his job was in Marketing and Sales which gave him an advantage in speaking.

Manian packaged himself as the best choice for her. So, the girl felt the confidence to say yes. As per the boy’s request, Manian wished to know her personal answer without any outsider influence. I think that day’s sale was done, and he had the tag on him indicating picked up for delivery.  

Those Days of Dating with Permission and Coffee with Snacks on Drop-off

The next Saturday after the official agreement pending for matched wedding, he landed up at his future bride’s office, deciding to pick her up for coffee and conversation. His future bride not only refused to come out of her cubical; but also decided to outwit him by remaining in the office until she garnered permission to meet him from her parents and family.

While he remained seated outside in the reception on that hall expecting to catch a glimpse of his lady luck. Meanwhile, our lady of the hour had called her father and informed about his presence in the office. Her father gave her the permission to meet up with him after a few rounds of telephone conversation with the boy and convincing the girl she was not committing the highest treason to her nation. 

After all the commotion in the office of his future bride, Manian decided to have a lunch date a little stretched one after having conversed with his future father-in-law. Eventually he did the gentlemanly thing of dropping off his fiancé at her home, of course, was stressed to stay around for some coffee and snacks. I thought that the person really seems to do the dare in marriage fixing.

Interestingly, the pair met and greeted every Saturdays. The weekends getting together and knowing each other happened for the next three months. The after-office hours helped Manian to understand his partner better before to their actual marriage and their tying the knot!

In these three months, they had planned out roughly as to what they would do together and allow the partners to do alone, while being a support to the other. The marriage, pre-marriage, post-marriage events were all discussed and decided. Their honeymoon was fixed to go to Ninital became a fashion statement to the family. Amidst displeasure the pair stayed by their decision much to both sides’ surprise.   

I come from a house where the women who married into the family had a voice and could strive to be themselves with their partners support. So, the progressive male in conservative setting is a given in my life at Srivatsam. I was not surprised by Manian’s open-minded relationship with his wife. But something that he told me surprised me.

But then, the men and the women from Manian era were genuinely interested in the relationship and felt their responsibility deeply. However, when it is hard to give and to take in the partnership, they would stick it out till all the vows of the marriage is fulfilled.

They were truly in essence ‘dharma patanis.’ These days there are more divorce cases filling up court room aisles. So, my friend also happened to be someone who believed that if he picks a girl then he would be fair to her and his mother. He exemplified that the girl is getting married to him and in a way the boy’s family too.

But she places her primary faith in the man that she marries, my friend said that he wanted to be true to that fact. Any girl that gets married into the family is almost one person versus the whole family. So, he believed that he had to side the newly wed girl based on her faith in him.

His Beliefs on Siding His Wife and His Mother | A Little In-Equally

He used a Tamil expression, “enna nambi vara, athunala naan avulodo side eduthupane.” This is a brave declaration is what I feel. This would obviously raise the red flag of rage among any boy’s mother. My friend was brave enough to go share this with his mother.

I primarily feel that Mothers of the boys bring them up as their future investments. A son is usually a retirement plan, and a girl is a deficit in the universal law of marriage in India. Any relationship should not have the pressures of tight fit emotional hold. I feel it is not a healthy attitude towards life or lifetime partnership.

If the person starts feeling stifled in the marriage, then it is determent to the relationship and breakup is right round the corner. The same applies for all the other relationships also. If, you are welcomed intrusion in the person’s life, then the relationship is in healthy equation. If the reaction of baring the teeth while striving for politeness then, it is time to revise that relationship’s equation.

Government Job and Shiftable Work City

The happy trip to Nainital in 1989 for their honeymoon brought the pair together. He got to know that his wife loved to dress up and she wore her fashion as a statement of purpose on her. Her choice of jewels was the lightweight ones and unlike the old fashion heavy jewels. She had a set of goggles, clutches, bags, sandals, heels, and other accessories to go with her dress. Her personal choice for office was only Cotton Sarees which comes with heavy maintenance and care.

Manian would help in taking care of starching, ironing, and making sure the weeks’ collection with multiple blouses options were available for her office week. When he spoke of these details, there was such pride in her choices and her need for being always presentable as prim and proper lady with taste.

She was an employ of Government job which was transferable across pan-India. He had placed one condition that his wife should be a working woman preferably having a Government job. Since his company had informed him that if the branch in Chennai did not perform well; then, he would be transferred back to the Delhi office. So, he wanted his wife to shift with him and best option was the Government employment condition.

Progressive or Not Is Questionable

I come from a Tam-Brahm where we are told to be teetotalers all our life. Even if we indulge in drinks it is done in sly and without the family knowing it. I have taken drinks during my MFA days, but prefer not to in India. I am not averse to drinking; but I choose not to which is different from being completely against drinking. So, I was quiet surprised to find that in one of his family holiday-trips, Manian encouraged his wife to test out the grounds of drinking from light Champagne to beer, and eventually to hard liquor.

Saras takes up the dare and tries out few but refuses to consume drink if she did not like it. Throughout the trip under that silently watching child’s eyes. That trip was done with the entire family of Manian, Saras, and their young son. Their son was grown up enough to order his own coke.

The pride Manian held for providing for the family a trip outside India can be felt in the tone of his voice when he narrated the event. It was one of Saras’s conditions during the three month of exchange of visions of their marriage. To go on a tour around and out of India.

Of course, this experiment with drinks became an embarrassing moment for the pair, when the child in all his innocence disclosed the private activity done in secrecy from the family. Now it was out in the open among family elders, while the pair of adult look and feel reprimanded for their drinking spree.

The revealed secret activity of his mother having tried in-flight champagne left the couple in a comically discomfortable situation but thankful that the son had not caught them partaking hard liquor. Among the conservative family taking drinks is prohibited for both male and female members. Nothing short of being a Teetotaler for life has been the accepted lifestyle rule. Of course, things happen in secrecy 😉

A Responsible Mother with Open-Minded Parenting

Saras was according to me a woman of emancipation and she showed great strength of character in her life. Even as a mother she had shown such exemplary open-mindedness which is seen in the child who had been nurtured to adulthood and has consented to take responsibility as a young parent. She prepared him for the future with such intense moments of conversation, sharing her aspiration for him. The son has been her dream project to which she had given her all.

When Sadness Found A Permanent Home There is Still Hope!

Saras diagnosis left an empty feeling among the family members. But the family braved on supporting each other in the sad journey while holding its cheer. We have not spoken so much about the cancer diagnosis and treatment, but my imagination helped me. I could sense the entire family’s pain. I could understand passing and loss of family members.

I wish the family more power of emotional strength as they go through life and its challenges. I believe that everyone is here on earth, for a reason, and when the reason has run out, our days are over on earth. Until it is curtain call, I intend to go on and wish that my friend Manian could also go on despite everything. I wish him great cheer and finding purpose in his grand-daughter’s presence and emotionally bonding with her. Find the little Saras in that child because “Life Goes On…”

Song URL: BTS Song link to Official Music Video in BE YouTube Channel