Joined: 18 November 2006
"My God! Your husband is as bad as your father. Just look at him sprawled on the floor. You never listened to me", angry words of an old woman hit my ears, waking me from my drunken sleep. With a splitting headache my eyes refused to open.
There was no reply from JADAM (this is what I consider my wife as). I felt my room door silently closing from the outside.
"Hush hush amma, he might wake up". Even in hushed tone, I was surprised to hear the jadam speak few words continuously.
"An officer, that too a government officer expressed his wish to marry you. Did you listen to me? You refused and married this drunkard."
"Amma please", jadam whined.
"Your sister ran away with a loser and lost everything and now I see your life also heading in a similar direction."
"Amma, why are you saying like that? I married a person selected by elders and did not repeat akka's mistake, did I?" jadam whined some more.
"Whom are you calling elder? Your father? Don't you know what that good for nothing drunkard is capable of? He has selected an exact replica of himself for you."
"Amma! Please stop right there. I cannot allow you to humiliate my husband like this." Jadam speaking for me ..more surprise. My curiosity for their conversation was not exactly shared by the mosquitoes attacking my legs. The noise of my swatting them silenced the next room occupants. When I walked towards the washroom after sometime, the mother- daughter duo was hiding in the kitchen.
As I came out of my room all ready for work, jadam was waiting with breakfast and my mother -in-law came to me with a contrived smile. "How are you mapillai?" Customary question.
"mmm.. how are all at your place?" Customary reply.
"I have come for a relative's wedding", she offered more information.
"Oh" I walked to the dining table and began eating, making it clear that I didn't want to continue the conversation. After that I picked up my lunch bag and silently walked towards the front door.
"She is nave and innocent. Please take good care of her." Pretending to ignore the daughter staring at the pleading mother, I kick started my bike.
After parking my bike at Perungalathur railway station, I hopped on to 8 am local heading towards Guduvanchery. Hopping back on to 8pm local from Guduvanchery has been my routine for the past one and half years. I work as a site engineer for Shakthivel Constructions. Although my branch of study was mechanical engineering, I can handle civil, plumbing and electrical in addition to mechanical. For this, I owe a lot to Mr.Kandhavel, my project manager. He was the one who recruited me and I picked up a lot under his guidance. There must be some karmic connection between the two of us. We clicked right from the start. Hence it was no surprise that I was always his first choice in every project he undertook. While being the toughest taskmaster, he was also very generous with praise and incentives whenever the job was completed to his expectation. Our Gudunvanchery project was scheduled to be completed in another few weeks time. Although official confirmation was yet to be received, our next project would be near Mahindra City.
As I signed the attendance muster, Mani who is stores- in-charge, informed me that Kandavel sir was expecting me in Block 2 , 4C.
"Good morning, sir." He acknowledged my greetings.
"Isakkimuthu, look at this..." We then proceeded to discuss the day's activities for the next fifteen minutes.
"The official letter has come. We can shift to Shakthi City project tentatively by Jan, 20th.
"I am waiting very eagerly, sir." He looked at me oddly.
"I thought as a newly married man, you might hesitate to travel farther away. Listen, I have an idea. You handle maintenance here for another year. By then in Shakthicity, construction of three floors would be completed. You can join us then." In our company we had this policy of undertaking maintenance for a period of one year after handing over possession of flats to our customers. With a sham marriage, Kandhavel sir's idea seemed absurd to me. But as I couldn't voice my thoughts to him, I simply said, "I will think over and let you know tomorrow, sir."
"Yeah, you may want to discuss this with your better half", he winked. I pretended to blush and turned towards my temporary office cabin. The next few hours kept me busy with plumbers and civil contractors.
At 11 am, as I was sipping my tea with colleagues, I suddenly hit my forehead looking at the row of bikes parked in the stilt floor. I had forgotten that the insurance renewal for my two- wheeler was long overdue. I took leave for the rest of the day. My 'Thursday friends' laughed at me, "Dei, is it really insurance renewal or are you running to your woman?" Some eight months back, when I had to stay back at the site on consecutive Thursdays because of work, we had got into this booze habit. Afterwards even without work, we continued the routine permanently every Thursday and that was how we became 'Thursday friends'. That was time again for another one of my fake blushes. I waved to them and left for the railway station.
The train was not due for arrival for another twenty minutes, so I headed for one of the benches under the tree. As I sat there staring aimlessly, I heard tingling laughter from the next bench. Must be lovers, they were showcasing a free show for everyone around. I turned my head in disgust. I gritted my teeth, remembering the ritual conducted in the name of my marriage.
Exactly three months back, I rushed to my hometown, Kadambathur after a frantic call from my cousin, Chinnasamy. We met near the temple pond.
"Dei Muthu, we cannot tolerate any more of your father or that Govindhasami."
"Who is Govindhasami?"
"They are Tasmac friends."
"So what? If they are boozing partners let them be, why should it bother us?"
"My dear brother, they are planning to take their friendship to a higher level, that means... in the form of marriage alliance. Govindhasami has a nineteen year old daughter."
I was excited, my marriage was getting fixed. "Is the girl beautiful?" I asked eagely.
"Brother, calm down. It is not your marriage, it is your father who plans to get married to the girl."
"what!" I was furious.
"The two men have something between them, we don't know exactly what. But if what I hear is true, then your father plans to transfer all his property to the girl." That infuriated me more, I was not ready to let go of my ancestral property to some stray girl. I rushed home to my father.
Our war of words escalated which in turn ended in my father collapsing down with a stroke. After he was hospitalized, I believed the matter was settled and my father's marriage would not happen. But Govindhasami, jadam's father threatened me that he would go to the police with a dowry harassment complaint. Although I had done nothing wrong, I did not wish for a 'police-case- court ' situation like this and get my reputation damaged for the rest of my life. In a confused state I was forced to take my father's place as the groom.
This is how my life got messed up with jadam's. The father daughter duo's lust for wealth ruined my life for ever. I didn't even look up at her face when she sat beside me. As my hands mechanically tied the sacred thread around her neck, I felt a noose slowly closing around my neck . My hatred was so much that my deepest wish was to make cry for the rest of her life. After my father was discharged from the hospital, jadam and I came to Chennai. I refused to look at or talk to her. My Thursday routine became everyday affair and I daringly continued it in my house in front of her. But she seemed to be unaffected by any of this. She neither cried nor fought with me. She remained silent, reactionless, emotionless like a log. She was a full- scale Jadam.
The whereabouts of our property documents still remained a mystery.
I rode back to my house at Irumbuliyur from Perungalathur station, as I had to collect my RC book and insurance papers. The door was locked ... had no idea where the saniyan... jadam had gone. With the duplicate key, I let myself in and picked up the required items. At United India assurance, after the routine vehicle inspection, I was told my papers would be ready only after 4pm. I didn't feel like going back home... instead I walked into Bhat's restaurant. As I was combing my hair in the wash area, I could see through the mirror jadam and another young woman in animated discussion four tables behind me. Curiosity overcame my temper and I quietly slipped into a table behind them from where I could listen.
"'..shocked when aunty called me. I didn't know you were married. Infact I even fought with her for not informing me about your wedding... that is when aunty broke down completely. She told me all that happened ... gave me your address...now you tell me.. what is going on..?" The other lady was panting.
"See..this is exactly why I am scared to share anything with you. You lose your temper very quickly."
"Ok... I won't do anything, but can I ask my daddy to intervene? He can be very persuasive, you know." I realized I was the subject of their discussion. When my own daddy had no influence on me, what was another daddy going to do to me! At this point I was ready to crush anyone who tried to cross with me.
"Shiva...please it is not anything serious... my mother is making mountains out of mole hills. I am begging you ... Please.. please don't blow up the issue."
"Tell me something.. are you really a jadam?" I felt like laughing. She was a jadam not just to me, but everybody seemed to think so.
I could hear a bitter laugh.
"How can you laugh? Earlier you suffered so much because of a drunkard father... the story continues with a drunkard husband.. yet you are...you are..."
"Enough Shiva... Not another word about him. How can you compare him with my father? He is million times better than appa... just a little alcohol for body pain. Didn't you say so yourself, that your father was all praise for him for being such a sincere and hard worker at the project site? "I stiffened. Was this friend Kandhasami sir's daughter?
"Ok ok...I will not talk anymore about that issue. But tell me why are you working in the Xerox shop? I believe your husband earns quite well."
"He earns well, but his entire salary is used up in home loan repayment. How else can we manage the day- to - day expenses?" I was surprised at my own lack of knowledge about a home loan I had supposedly taken.
"You're a poor liar! One thing is clear. There is some problem which you are not telling me as I can see clearly there is no radiance on your face that should be evident on a typical new bride."
"There is nothing, really... with time everything would fall in place."
"As you wish.. but please promise me that you will not take any drastic step.."
"Sure, Shivapriya. I also want you to give me your word that you will not tell anything to your father."
"mmm...ok for the time being. Take my spare cellphone. We will keep in regular touch. But are you sure? .. If the torture is becoming unbearable we can always go to the police.." I was beginning to feel uneasy.
"I think we have discussed enough. .. I have to go back to the shop." I sat there thinking even long after they were gone. My mind played their conversation repeatedly. Why didn't I think of it before? It dawned on me that neither I had given her any money for household expenses nor had she asked me. In fact, I couldn't recall a single instant where we had spoken to each other. So this is how she had managed.. mmm she had little self-pride. The fact that she defended me pricked me. Newer and newer revelations right from the day's morning unnerved me and for the first time I began to wonder how 'this' daughter have any part in the father's evil deeds. She began to earn points from me.
At 9 pm, I returned home with my usual 'bag'. She let me in and after closing the door, hurried back to the kitchen. I kept my bag on the table and went for my wife for the first time. I watched her filling my dinner plate. As her back was turned to me, she didn't realize my presence. I noticed her attractive curves and simple clothing for the first time. I vaguely remembered possessing her in inebriated state, God knows how many times... but never once had I bothered to look at her..her beauty.. her heart.. her feelings..
"What is your name?" I must be the only man in the entire universe who didn't know his wife's name even after three months of marriage. She jerked at the sudden voice and dropped the ladle scattering the rice on the floor. After quickly cleaning the floor, she looked up at me and said in a feeble tone, "Soundaram". Beautiful name... fitted the woman.
"Soundaram.. dinner over?" She looked at me confused.
"I asked if you had your dinner." A very first question of genuine concern. The day was becoming one for several of my 'firsts'. I could see her biting her lips trying to suppress the sudden surge of emotions. She shook her head.
"Let's eat together", I took the filled plate and an empty plate to our room. She followed me quickly with the other dishes. I laid the plates and sat down on the floor.
"Sit." She sat down hesitantly. She watched my actions in silence as I served the dishes. I could sense the hidden tension behind the eyes which kept darting to my bag every now and then. I grabbed the bag, pulled out the flower bundle and held it out to her. Unable to believe, she looked deep into my eyes.
"I like to see that on your hair", I said softly.
"Can I keep some for swami.. tomorrow... it's Friday'", the voice was barely audible.
"mmm.." She took a handkerchief from the cupboard and ran to the kitchen. The Tasmac bottle was still inside the bag and I noticed that she failed to see the bulge in the bag. When she returned back she had only half of what I had given. She stood there with an expectant look on her face. I laughed and held out my hand. She gave it to me and turned around. I stood up and inserted it awkwardly into her braid, bent down and inhaled the fragrance deeply. I could feel her shudder as my lips pressed against her soft and silky nape.
"Let's eat." She sat down. We ate in silence. I waited patiently as she cleared away the dishes and returned back to the room.
"Has your mother gone back?"
"She could have stayed with you for some more time."
"Amma couldn't leave akka and her child alone for long'"
"What is your sister's husband doing?"
"He ran away abandoning my sister and his son'" I didn't know how to continue the conversation after this.
"Shall we watch TV, Soundari?" She smiled a little at her name change. I switched on the TV, sat on the sofa and made her sit beside me. My eyes and mind did not synchronize. I sat wondering ways to resume the conversation as my hand played with her fingers. She must have felt similarly.
Finally I cleared my throat and began, "I am not sure how you will take this.. but until now I have never treated you like a living being let alone my wife. I...I thought of you as a ... as a.."
"as a jadam", she finished for me. I looked up shocked.
"This is what you called me when you were tired." The way she dignified my inebriated state as tired was bitterly funny.
"What can you do? Isn't that exactly what I am?"
"Is my manager's daughter your friend?" She was taken aback. "How.. how did you know? She...her father... your manager...did he say anything?" she stammered.
"No. I was also at Bhat's restaurant this afternoon."
"Please believe me... I did not say anything... My mother contacted Shivapriya.."
"I know that Soundaram. Are you working in a shop? Why didn't you ask me for money for household expenses?" I wondered how she could have asked me for anything with the given the state of our relationship... nevertheless I asked her the dumb question.
"No, even without asking, you have given me lots and lots of money", she brought out my passbook. In the last three months period I could see forty to forty five credit entries. "I thought it better to leave the money in your account."
"I couldn't accept that. Oh! I almost forgot. Amma asked me to hand this over to you." I was speechless looking at the file she gave me. It was our property documents.
"Amma had brought this here without appa's knowledge. The wedding today was just a pretext for her to come here."
"Why didn't you marry the government officer whom your mother chose?" She was hurt.
"That fellow is in Revenue department. I learnt that he earns five times his salary in bribes. Just imagine the amount of people affected by him. Won't their ill feelings and curses affect the family? I couldn't marry such a man." The more she talked the more I found myself awarding her points.
"Then why did you agree to marry my father?"
"No.. I did not." I looked confused.
"When my father said that the boy was an Engineer in Chennai... decent and respectable family, my mother and I assumed he was describing the groom. We realized he was telling us about the groom's son only after we reached the wedding hall. My mother urged me to escape. I was too shocked to react. When your father had a stroke.. I am sorry to say this, but I was relieved the wedding was off. I don't know how appa persuaded you.. but you took your father's place and married me. But I was shocked again to realize that you were under some compulsion to take me.. I consoled myself that things would improve slowly... but after coming here I was in for more shock to see you with alcohol bottles..", she sighed deeply. I stroked her arm.
"How could you be so... so... very patient?"
"You want to know how I am a jadam? We have suffered a lot because of my appa's drinking habits right from our childhood. Many days we have gone with no food..it was my amma who earned as domestic help.. I also went along with my mother right from my eighth class..how many insults... scoldings.. worked in many houses... later in textile shop.. everywhere I worked I learnt one important lesson. Grit your teeth and put up with all the humiliation.. it is the only way for survival...I had no power to fight..I changed myself.. I learnt and practiced to suppress my feelings ... let nothing affect me." It was heart wrenching to hear her speak about her troubled past. I sighed deeply.
"It is getting late.. don't you have to go for work tomorrow?" I switched off the TV and we entered our bedroom. I forgot my bottle. I hugged her, again for the first time in a fully conscious state. She proved to me yet again that she was not a jadam. Filled with peace, I felt like talking to her endlessly.
"When did I give you money?"
"It is getting late... I am sleepy.."
"When did I give you money?"
"Don't you have office tomorrow?"
"You have to answer me.. I have eaten three meals a day shamelessly with your earnings."
"Why are you talking like this.. does it matter who earns?" Her voice showed hurt.
"Don't change the topic. Answer my question." I shook her.
"Now! At this time... during the nights...you would throw the money at me... throw at me", she burst out.
"What!!!!!!" I sat up straight in disbelief. I felt like filth. When I couldn't forgive myself I had no idea how she had put up with the humiliation all along. I realized that she had climbed way up...high up... higher than mountain top... while I had fallen down into the deepest trench from where I couldn't even look up at her.
"I ... donot deserve you Soundaram...no.. I have no right to even utter your name.." I began slapping myself in disgust.
She held back my arms tightly, "Please listen to me..You are a good person... cultured.." I looked at her in disbelief "really.. believe me. Even when you didn't like me, you allowed me to live in this house.. you didn't speak to me.. yet you have eaten the food I made. Never once have you indicated to anyone that we had problems.. what if the house has an eerie silence..you have never abused me physically or with words. For whatever the reason, you had a bad picture about me .. but I had faith that once that image changed, the situation would improve and you have already proved me right... do you want to know how? You never took out the bottle today.. see.. what ever you did was when you were not in your right senses.. that is exactly why I could tolerate your mistake. I also knew you would feel miserable if you knew what you had done... I wanted that chapter of our life forgotten... but you have forced me into telling you this...I want you to know that you are and will always be special to me..." as she went on and on I lay on her lap like a child longing for reassurance and comfort of a mother.
I threw the full bottle into the dustbin first thing in the morning. When she brought my morning coffee I looked up at her radiant face to learn that peace and happiness enhances the beauty of a person multifold.
"Coffee tastes heavenly." She smiled.
"Shall I quit my job? What do you say?"
"Can we take some up some small time business?I will have lot of free time.."
"There seems to be great demand for filter coffee. We can pack coffee decoction that can last for two to three days..." she looked at me eagerly.
"You are so dumb"
"Ok" I laughed.
"I am jadam"
"No... definitely Not ok", she turned and walked back as her eyes filled with tears. I ran behind her and hugged her tightly.
"Sir, as you suggested, I shall take up the maintenance work here"
"Pillow talk... I am sure", Kandhasami sir made fun of me.
"Yes sir", I could reply honestly without attempting to blush.
"This cellphone belongs to your daughter. My wife has a message for your daughter before I hand over this phone 'the phone she lost has been found and there is no need for this any more'. I believe they are very close friends."
Kandhavel sir took the phone surprised, "Is it? I never knew that."
"Yes sir, even I found out only yesterday. Sir I need two weeks off... irrespective of whether you sanction or not", I added and started walking away from him. For a brief minute, my manager was silent before bursting out into the loudest laughter. I never bothered to look back. How was he supposed to know that I had only one goal in life and that was my wife Soundaram's happiness.
Author's note: This story has been late in coming ..eight days after Women's Day. Nevertheless it is my belief that Women should be celebrated every single day. This story is a small tribute to all the Goddess and Fairies on Earth but for whom no man can exist in the real sense!
The tamil version of this story is at the following link
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After unsuccessful experimentation, a frustrated Newton was walking aimlessly. Suddenly he found himself in a narrow lane and the path was blocked by a buffalo. He tried shooing the animal, but it being a buffalo refused to move how much ever he tried. In a fit of anger he kicked the animal, which moved a lit bit. Thus the first Law of Motion was born which goes like this
'Every object continues to remain in state of rest or uniform motion unless acted upon by an external force'
The kick caused pain to the buffalo which cried ma – thus the second law got formulated
'F = MA' (Force = mass x acceleration)
The angry animal kicked the scientist back and there we have the third law
'Every action has equal and opposite reaction'
This is how a Physics Teacher (Mr.C.Mouli) taught the three laws in a novel way. Although the children were in splits, he was assured they would never forget this topic for life.Wish we had more of such teachers.
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Tamil Short Stories by Kishore!!
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