The Grip Of Infamy. Episode 34. By R. Sittampram

Episode 34 (Scroll down the Literature Section to read earlier episodes of this serialised novel)

The day Seema approached Thana to brief him on the approaching menace of a pandemic outbreak was coincidentally the day before the big Muthappan puja at his home.

Thana had just come into his Ministry office an hour before and following a briefing by the DG, Dr Thamodaran, Seema went in to approach Thana.

Thana, I have something important to tell you. Have you heard anything about a new type of viral disease outbreak in Wuhan, China?

Scientists have predicted that the virus would reach every corner of the world within two weeks.

It seems hundreds of thousands of tourists from Wuhan had left for destinations all over the world including Merekasia before the threat was identified and reported to the Healthy World Organisation.

Thana couldn’t grasp what Seema was trying to convey to him due to her poor diction and jerky pronunciation, speaking in the Tamil language which was not her mother tongue.

What disease is this?

Seema composed herself realising that Thana seemed to be in a good mood and repeated her message adding that the new virus was very dangerous and could cause sudden death.

Even though Thana was not a well read person, he had picked up some semblance of knowledge of world matters and technology thanks in part to Asha’s coaching and being in government the past few years.

And he also had to appear educated as he possessed a degree he had bought from an unknown university of a Pacific island nation for RM10,000 through a degree mill.

Sudden death? Does our PM’s department know about this?

I’m not sure but there hasn’t been any official statement on this yet. I’ve checked all the official correspondence todate.

But the reason I came to inform you of this is because businesses will be badly affected as it is said the only way to control this virus is through social lockdown which is basically movement control of people.

By closing down workplaces, schools, offices and confining people at their homes.

Grasping the message, Thana realised the impact on his ministry’s clientele and `pau’ collection strategy and wished to be the first to alert Zainal about this matter.

He could understand Zainal’s ‘pau’ scheme would be badly affected by the social lockdown.

Thank you for tipping me off, dear. Get me some details and I will act immediately on this.

After Seema passed him her report, Thana told her to be on standby to give a briefing via video conferencing and left for Zainal’s office which was in the precinct next to the government administrative complex.

Seema was elated to have got Thana’s attention and felt she had done her part in safeguarding him although she feared his ministry would be facing a tough time when the pandemic hits Merekasia.

She knew well the role of Global Warming in unleashing Covid19 upon environmentally abusive humans but didn’t want to waste time telling Thana this knowing well his malevolent streak.

Back at Thana’s house Asha was making last minute arrangements for the Muthappan pooja. Her parents and siblings had already arrived and occupied the four guest rooms at their private bungalow at Sental, within the Mereka city limits.

Thana’s family was not invited given the convenient excuse that they weren’t from Asha’s ethnic community and wouldn’t understand the proceedings of the pooja.

Shrewd and sharp in people skills though, Thana could never outsmart or question Asha in her decisions as homemaker.

Besides his priorities after marriage were lesser and lesser concerned with his parents and siblings, considering them as liabilities in his path of success.

Asha was with her sister and sisters-in-law in the second floor private lounge area with beauty consultant Parimala Devi.

The ladies were getting a complete makeover, Asha’s treat.

However Parimala was faced with the challenge of giving the ladies a traditional appearance – conservative hairdos enhanced with gold gem studded jewellery, expensive pattu (silk) sarees tied fashionably and thinly laid facial makeup to enhance the ladies fair olive coloured complexion.

Asha nonchalantly expressed her intentions to Parimala who busied herself, fixing the safety pins at the required points on the contemporary Kasavu saree she had draped on Asha, with the air of a VIP client.

It is important we stand out among the guests. There should not be a shred of doubt in anyone’s minds who the hosts are.

Parimala despised these ‘nose-in-the-air’ clients who despite their alluding to high status, pomp and class were most stingy, asking for discounts on the standard charges for her services.

Asha who was scrutinising the safety pin punctures on her saree making sure Parimala didn’t carelessly damage the broad gold thread inlaid borders, whispered to the latter of her apprehension.

Amma, be very very careful with this saree as it is very costly and close to my heart. A careless puncture of the safety pin will be most painful as my poor heart simply can’t bear it.

Parimala who was approaching middle age and wiser with experience in this chosen field, calmly nodded her head despite being a naturally hot headed person.

All the events and characters portrayed in this serialised novel are fictional and any parallel with real life events or persons is purely coincidental.

Sittam Param

Writer, poet, dramatist and former journalist. I have passion for art in all its forms hence my involvement in this portal.

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