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Friday, May 28, 2010

Amma, Don’t Pardon Me!

Telugu story by C. Bhavani Devi
Translator GRK Murty

Setting the kitchen alright, Sunitha calls Mohan.

“Mohan! Won’t you please help me?”

Mohan can’t say no whenever Sunitha asks like that.

He might be a doctor, but isn’t he the husband for her!

Although it’s a week since they have changed the house, both being duty-bound, could not set right the house. He connects the fridge to power and puts on the switch.

Saying, “Sunitha, tomorrow I shall arrange for vegetables! It’s enough, feeling hungry, please do serve dinner”, he washes his hands.

In the meanwhile, the neighboring lady’s voice is again heard. 

“Radha! Please set the dining table; shall have our dinner”, she tells her daughter.

Sunitha has been listening to her voice for the last one week. The clinking sounds of plates, spoons… might be having their dinner.

“Radha! Make the bed for father. Put drinking water near the bed. By the by, don’t forget to give medicine”, listening to the voice of neighboring lady, Sunitha and Mohan finish their dinner. Light is put off in the neighboring house. All go to sleep. 

As long as she is in the house, hearing the voice of the neighboring lady has almost become part of the daily chores of Sunitha,. The maidservant tells that her name is Janakamma. Thought of going to her once and introduce herself, but in the meanwhile, an urgent phone call comes asking her to start immediately since her mother is sick. Hurriedly, both apply for leave and rush to Nellore. Seeing her mother, lying in the bed inflicted by a stroke, Sunitha cries. Mohan is unable to console her. She stays back for ten days. After her mother’s position improves a little, Sunitha starts back. 

Holding Sunitha’s hand, her mother doesn’t let her go. Overawed by fear, she implores Sunitha to stay back. Her eyes well up. But Sunitha has no time to stay back with mother who brought her up thus far.

“No leave! Shall come back again”, thus consoling her mother, she starts back. But her heart remains with her mother.

The routine again. In the world of working couple, there is no room for even amma, what to talk about neighbors. After coming to the new house, obviously, new surroundings, new contacts, isolated city life.

That day, as Sunitha gets up from bed, she hears Janakamma’s voice. Hearing her say, “Radha, give this, that”, she is reminded of her mother.

“Radha! Asked you to fetch flowers for the prayer, have you? Ha, keep them here. In the meanwhile, cut those vegetables”, Janakamma’s tone resonates. 

The whole day passes by very hectic… a colleague’s marriage. She thinks of somehow calling on Janakamma in the evening. But, it takes time for the bank’s balance sheet to get tallied. It is 8 in the night by the time she gets back home. Having got delayed at the clinic, Mohan comes home at 9 O’clock. Being tired, immediately after having dinner, Sunitha goes to bed, pulling over the blanket. Suddenly they wake up in the middle of the night, hearing someone knocking on the door wildly. They open the door. There stood the elderly neighbor. “Doctor! Please come immediately to our house, Janaki has lost her consciousness”, he says anxiously.   

Sunitha rushes to the neighboring house with Mohan. Mohan gives an injection to her. “Nothing to worry, it’s common with high temperature”, says Mohan while checking BP. 

She is around sixty. Grey hair, on the broad forehead there is a red dot, ordinary bangles on the hand, jari border sari… she is just like her mother. Sunitha looks around the house—old furniture, old-style photos, photos of children, latest two color photos of a couple …perhaps, of their children. 

“Radha!” Janakammagaru calls feebly.

Turning to him, Sunitha asks him, “Will you please call Radha?” His eyes well up. Showing the girl doll placed by the side of TV, he wipes his tears. She feels as though the doll is looking piercingly through the depths of her heart. Turning her eyes from it, she looks at him questioningly. 

“Yes! Radha is our daughter. She loved a software engineer and marrying him, she went to America. In her love for her daughter, not being able to stay without her, Janakamma has become like this. In her illusion that her daughter is around, she keeps calling Radha for every trivial need. It’s pretty expensive to go to them. Nor does son-in-law send Radha here. Both son and daughter-in-law are employed. They cannot stay with us. Last time, before coming here, Radha asked her, ‘Amma! What shall I get for you?’ Janaki had said, ‘Need a doll of a girl like you.’ It’s the same doll”, finishes the old man. 

For Sunitha, it’s not Radha that’s visible now but herself in that doll. She gets up slowly and setting right the blanket on Janakamma, walks out.

With a heavy heart, Sunitha soliloquizes: “Amma! Don’t pardon me.” For the mother lying motionless in Nellore, it was like a tweak in her womb.


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