King, Queen,Ace,Jack,Queen,King,Jack,Ace,Joker; it looked like a realm of rich but grim royals. “Ulle…veliye…ulle…veliye…ulle…veliye…” vellamani’s voice cut straight to the attention of the puny crowd that surrounded the deck of cards that were neatly laid on the ground.
Nithu(Nithesh, my 12 year old neighbor)squatted among other adolescents around the cards. Pretending to nudge Nithu on his back, I hopped to take a keener look on the cards. NIthu didn’t turn.
I pinched him.”Mcchh….what?”
“Nithu…what are you doing here?”
Nithu didn’t reply.
“Aaaaaahhhh, King kedachuchu paathyaa….podu…ulle…veliye…ulle…veliye…ulle…veliye”, Vellamani took the game on.
Vellamani looked at me indignantly but couldn’t release his anger as his lips continued to chant ulle…veliye.
Do I know this guy? Yes, he’s the sweeper turned watchman and now runs errands for almost every one in this apartment complex. He has become a household possession and that gave me the liberty to respond to him on the same tone he carried on his face.
“Vellamani….ennathu ithu…chinna pasangle vechu cheettadittu irukke, athuvum kaasu vechu”.
“Akka, ithu super-a irukku, neeyum vaayen, it’s fun”, Nithu answered for Vellamani.
“Iru…un amma kitte solren. Vellamani, unne thedi Shobana vantrukka”. I knew this would silence the game. Vellamani turned with an appalled look. He would have punched me on my nose, in his imagination. Who cares, I stopped his damn ulle…veliye.
Shobana was not there actually but her name usually threatened Vellamani. So I used it profusely whenever the situation with him needed it. Shobana, his half sister and a hazard to his mind’s peace. They always fought over everything and Vellamani complained she took away everything he had.
“enge irukka”, a sigh, a frown, a moment of closed eyes in silence precedented this.
“Ange, front gate pakkathule”.
He stood up and left without saying anything to the kids.
“Ethukkuda kaasu vechu veleyadreenga. It’s wrong”, I said authoritatively to the dissapointed crowd. They looked somewhere else, ignoring in all respect what I just said.
Three hundred rupee notes, four fifty rupee notes and one twenty rupee note.
“ivlo kaasu yaarodathu?” I didn’t expect an answer. So I picked the money, counting.
“Five Twenty rupees !!!! ” I looked around hoping no one would answer so I didn’t have anybody claiming the money. Yippe, a piece of me said.
“Cut it !! Yaaruppa anthe ponnu…Intha character script le illeye, Vellamani enge?” ,that wasn’t from void. There was a man, about twenty feet away, in goggles. I looked at him, there were few more, behind him, beside him, everywhere and there was a camera. And it was running. The cameraman did not move.
I didn’t actually but believed I understood. I was sitting there, squatting actually,with cards laid out, some cash in hand and surrounded by a mob of brood who pretended to be naïve, all captured neatly in a running camera.
“Vellamani poyittan,Sir.Namma itheye eduthukkalam. Different a irukku Sir, Teenage ponnunge pocket money kaaga, Mangaatha velayadrange.Different ana concept, sir.”
The man in goggles observed me, only his goggles didn’t fit in his ears.They were half dangling on his nose. I had watched enough television to understand he was the director of whatever crap they were shooting.
“Hmm…ok”, he said,”inthamma…apdiye ukkanthutu…konjam..dialogue-e sollu”
“Dialogue-a!?,Excuse me, I am not acting” verum kaathu thaann vanthuthu
He smiled as if he sympathised and turned to another man who stood beside,”yen pa, intha ponnu dialogue enna?”
“Ulle…veliye…ulle…veliye…sollu ma” he shouted from there.
I think Nithu understood what I felt like.
“Akka, come on, dialogue e sollu” , he nudged me
Veliye….Flash, some yellow light beat hard on my face.
Ulle, I felt queasy, or at least that’s what I remember.
A few days later on TV
“Pocket Money sambaathippatharkaage indraye teenage pengal seivathu ennenne, paarungal intha vaaram, ULLE VELIYE! , oru dhidukkidum report”
Nithu’s mom never let him talk to me again. None of the kids were allowed to, from that day.
These reality shows, I am telling you.