Jayam casually browsed through the Tamil weeklies. Her son had left for the office. Now she could relax for sometime. When her husband had been alive she used to rest only after attending to his needs. She followed the same schedule even now. But these days, she used to feel exhausted very soon: she kept telling herself-yes, I am turning 70 this month.
Nothing appeared interesting in those similar looking magazines - a few political tit-bits, a little gossip about popular figures; some exaggerated clippings about the Gujarat riots -no story at all worth reading. She missed the regular contributions of Kalki, Devan, Lakshmi and even Balakumaran who stimulated in one the desire to follow the stories every week. Someone had correctly remarked that if one removed the covers of all Tamil magazines today - they`d cease to be different.
As she kept flipping the pages, suddenly there appeared the picture of an African boy with an Indian girl. The girl was in `madisar` the traditional Brahmin dress, now confined to marriage and religious occasions. Curiously she went through the article. The South Indian Brahmin girl settled in US had married her black friend.
The only condition that both the parents had put forward was that the marriage was to be conducted in both the traditions. Of course there was the traditional Indian janavasam and mangalya tharanam and in the evening, the wedding ceremony in the church! Both the families were happy! After all their children`s pleasure was theirs!
Suddenly thoughts of Vijaya, her only daughter, came to her mind. It had been more than three decades since she had seen her!
Her husband had been in Bangalore, working for a private newspaper, when her daughter Vijaya was born. After five years, her son Krishnan followed. Every one was aware of her husband`s nature. A genius with a triple Masters degree, he could quote Shelly and Keats and his readers held his political analysis in high esteem.
But he always believed that Jayam was not an ideal match for him and he never bothered about what was happening in the house. The other three at home thought of him as a demigod and were in awe of him. Jayam never appeared before him. He used to make purchases every day on his way back from office. The neighbours thought that he treated his wife like a queen! But the reality was just the opposite. The children felt neglected and ignored and Jayam made compromises. She was always conscious of the vacuum in her life!
One fine morning Vijaya went missing! She had chosen her own way of life with a boy- the carpenter`s son, living close by! This came as a rude shock to the parents! That was the first occasion she sat before her husband, who also seemed helpless. " I m very sorry, I never thought she would bring disrespect to you like this, but I don`t know what to do!" she broke down.
For the first time he hugged her. "No Jayam, I am to be blamed totally. But one thing I don`t understand- I was indifferent, no doubt. She has every right to break the social norms and free herself. But you showered love and affection on her. Why should she betray you also?" He was struggling for words, "If you feel you can give the money and jewellery which we have set aside for her marriage-you may do so. But I don`t want to see her face! " He finished.
The scene flashed through her mind-the neighbours coming and consoling them as if someone had died! After that sad episode they had shifted to Chennai, taking a voluntary retirement. Their son got a job in a private company. It was more than five years since her husband had passed away. But until now she had never seen nor wanted to know about Vijaya, eventhough some people had told her that she had had two beautiful children.
What a change between that time and the present day! Is it a change for the better? - She questioned herself on seeing the marriage photo of the Brahmin girl with the African boy, blessed by both sets of parents!
She could not explain her stand- Was it total devotion to her husband? Was it blind faith in the old norms? Had she failed as a mother? She had no answer!
Mrs. Vasantha Parthasarathy