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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Problem Solved (Theerina Samasya)

 Original in Telugu   -  Dr.Vijayalakshmi Ramakrishnan
 Translator - GRK Murty

Ms. Vijayalakshmi U. Ramakrishnan obtained MA in botany from Banaras Hindu University, India. She worked for a couple of years in Sugarcane Breeding Institute, Coimbatore, India. Later she moved to America in 1969.

During early 60s she wrote stories and novels in Telugu. She is known as an excellent story teller. Her stories mostly dwell on family relations—she presents the dynamics of family relations and its interplay in an altogether new dimension that makes the readers wonder: How true!

Ms.Vijayalakshmi received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching from President Ronald Reagan and a Vijaya Lakshmi Day Proclamation from the former South Dakota Governor in 1986.

“Sleep is thrusting itself on me, will you not get up for dinner?” snapping her fingers and restraining the yawn, Kanakamma asked her husband.

“Yes, coming! You serve, I shall come after washing my feet,” said Sivayya.

Spreading the plantain leaf, Kanakamma served the food. Wiping away the moist legs with a towel, Sivayya came in. Sitting on the wooden plank, he enquired, “So! Raghava had his dinner?”

“First, you have your food; why now wondering about his dinner? By the way, scolding, beating is your share; but calling him and feeding him is my share?” said Kanakamma.

Sivayya could well understand that Raghava had had his food. Otherwise, the lady’s style of talking would have been different! 

As he was about to finish his food, Kanakamma served curd. 

“How many more days are there for the big buffalo to calve? Last time she delivered a healthy calf,” said Sivayya.

“Calf to deer, you remember everything at dinnertime, while I fight out the sleep,” said Kanakamma. Finishing his food, Sivayya got up.

The previous day, Sivayya, being terribly annoyed with Raghavulu, scolded him left and right. It seems that Sivayya asked him to get pedda paleru[1] home; whereas Raghavulu said, “I haven’t heard.” “Yes why do you hear? You have become indifferent! I am watching … you’ve changed! You got tuned to the local water. See, for today, what a loss you’ve inflicted? How do you cover it?”—thus Sivayya scolded him patiently for half-an-hour as the latter stood silently before him. 

Raghavulu might not have really heard it. Doesn’t matter who was being scolded by whosoever, Kanakamma trembles. She got angry with her husband for scolding Raghavulu who was of his elder son’s age. She believed Raghavulu. Fearing that her husband had of late become absent-minded, she thought he might not have said at all—for Raghavulu was not the type who would be lazy to get up early in the morning. “Even otherwise as he is aging, his anger is mounting. In these days, will labor keep quiet if they are scolded? If not acceptable, the alternative is to ask one to quit! Recently, when the brother-in-law of her younger daughter abused a worker, it seems, he gave it back to him. Though days are changing, he is not changing,” felt she about her husband.

After the bashing, as Raghavulu was returning irritably to the backyard, he could see the young calf that had got untethered eating the banana shoot. Unable to hold back his anger, he hurled the shaft at the calf. It must have hit the calf at the wrong place; the calf fell down wriggling, its eyes reeling. Kanakamma, who entered the backyard, seeing all this, rushed to the calf saying, “What’s this?” and held her palms tight against the calf’s ears. Raghavulu felt ashamed to look at ammagari’s[2] face. Luckily, the calf managed to get up, for it was, perhaps, destined to live further. 

Although Kanakamma got angry at what Raghavulu had done, she didn’t express it. She felt it was all the mistake of her husband. Yet, as the he-calf collapsed, she felt very bad. She thought she could not anyway calm down her husband’s anger. But this fellow, Raghavulu, if he shows his anger at the calves, “What is the answer?” wondered she.

Raghavulu moved around, avoiding Kanakamma that whole day. He had heard her saying happily many a time, to many people: “In the last two years, after Raghavulu’s arrival, all our cows gave birth to he-calves; earlier none of the calves of the buffaloes survived, but after his coming, they are all fine.” 

After munsiff[3] garu[4], Sivayya was the rich farmer in that village. Man of ill-temper! But nobody else in that area gave as much salary as he gave. However angrily he might scold or slap the palerulu[5], he would terribly feel unhappy later. Whenever he scolded anybody, as the night hours set in, he would call that fellow into that gray shade, with his face remaining barely visible, and would say, “It’s how long since you haven’t gone to a movie?” If the servant is smart, he would say, “One month,” though he might have gone the previous week. Sivayya, though knew it was a lie, would say, “Shouldn’t you ask then; am I to enquire about your going to a movie too—Hu!” Flinging half a rupee coin, he would say, “Take this, eat food and go.”  Raghavulu was very smart at availing of this benefit. Whenever an opportunity arose, he would always snatch away that half a rupee. There was only one theater in that village. Only Telugu movies played there. Each movie played for a month. His ticket cost only four annas![6] If he wanted, he would pick up some other laborer working in another farmer’s house as his companion, otherwise he would buy four anna ticket, drink a soda and buy a paan[7], spending two annas and if he felt sleepy in the interval, he would drink tea by spending the remaining twoannas.

“Sivayya garu is a kind lord. He gives money to Raghavulu twice a month for movies. Gives daily one anna forbeedies[8]. Kanakamma garu feeds him daily curries,” thus the laborers working under other farmers would nag them. The other farmers of the village used to think of them: “Sons are well settled in towns leading their own life; leading a relaxed life, this old man is spoiling the laborers of the village,” whereas women used to curse them saying, “Showing off too much”; or cuss them: “Fellows destined to ruin themselves.”     

Raghavulu had high reverence for Sivayya and Kanakamma. Kanakamma was a typical farmer’s wife. She would keep on pestering Raghavulu with questions: “You have milked the younger cow fully?” “Asked you to leave a good amount for the calf?” “Brawn-mixed water is still in the tank, didn’t buffaloes drink?” “Have you put salt in the lentils meant for cattle or not?” “Why have you forgotten to water the brinjal plants?” On such occasions, Raghavulu would think that Sivayya—who was sitting quietly reading the newspaper and who would never bother to enquire about his work, except for, at the most, once in a month—was a kind lord. Whenever Kanakamma, despite his saying, “Enough amma[9],” flipped the whole vessel of curd onto his plate saying, “Aren’t we only two, what can we do with all this, should I throw it for cattle?” he would think of her as his “kind landlady”.

Kanakamma, by her very nature, didn’t like to be alone. She never felt happy of her two sons’ getting well educated, except when they were young. She used to think, “Because they got educated, they left the village in pursuit of jobs.” She could not even think of going and staying with her sons, for if her old man was not in the village, who would take care of the farm? Elder son was a mathematics teacher in the nearby town. Younger son was an agricultural demonstrator. Whenever she attempted to pack lentils and give it to her elder son, he would say, “Why don’t you dispose them of here itself? Can’t we buy them there? Why this luggage in buses and trains?” She used to feel, “He doesn’t have any love for the grain that is from our own field.” Once when she, packing avakaya[10], gongura[11] in jars, tried to give it to her younger son asking him to carry home, he said: “Not necessary. This year your daughter-in-law made it.” She, surprised at it, said, “Oh! She had grown up capable of making pickles?” Her son said, “Yes, she made it after reading about it in a magazine.” He hadn’t any concern for the pickle, though it was amma’s preparation. After both her sons left, staring at the packages of lentils and jars of pickles that were turned down by them, her eyes moistened. However, Sivayya said, “They are managing themselves, and instead of being happy why all this worry?” She became terribly angry at her husband. That night she called him for dinner only after she had a nap. 

In the village, while all the women of her age were, after the arrival of their daughters-in-law, leading a relaxed life, she continued with her labor all alone in that big mansion. Kanakamma, who, when she was young, used to attend to every need of her husband at his beck and call, today, having become old, not being able to stay alone, is throwing tantrums at every opportunity at her husband and is thus getting solace.

That whole night, Kanakamma was thinking of Raghavulu’s anger. In the early hours, a beautiful idea struck her: “We should marry him off soon.” After all, she, having sons who are leading a married life, can’t but get such an idea! The next day, Raghavulu’s mother came to see her son. Availing the opportunity, Kanakamma broached the idea of marrying him of. Raghavulu’s mother replied: “I am indeed searching for a bride! When the last time he came home for the festival, he had seen a girl nearby. It is me, the stupid, who sent him forcibly. Now he says, ‘I like that girl, you arrange the marriage with her only.’ Those fellows are asking fifty rupees. Why should we go for her, when there is a girl available for only twenty-five rupees in other villages. Ammagaru, you also kindly tell him to see reason.” Kanakamma felt really happy about it. Saying, “This idiot hadn’t said about this even once to me,” she went inside and picking twenty-five rupees from the box, she came out and gave that money to Raghavulu’s mother, and said, “You said you have twenty-five rupees with you, so add this and fix up the girl whom he liked.” Kanakamma felt contented as though a big problem had been resolved.     

Raghavulu thus got married and became a man of his own house. But this led to a new problem. Vexed with his indifference—“Promised to come yesterday, yet hasn’t come till now. Having got used to him, the buffaloes will not allow others to milk them”—Kanakamma was unhappy with Raghavulu.

“Got him married off merrily, now he is going twice a month to his village! You asked for it!” said Sivayya.

“What’s it that I asked for? You think, for the sake of our cows and buffaloes, he would defer his marriage!” said Kanakamma.

“Then why do you rattle like that?” said Sivayya.

“Because you aren’t getting even a feeble idea!”

“How come, what do you want me to do?” said Sivayya.

“The site to our southern side is anyway vacant, let us put a hut there. He will no longer run to the village like this,” said Kanakamma.

Reminded of his youth, Sivayya smiled. “OK, we shall get it done. You tell him when he returns,” said he.

Raghavulu brought Sita and started living in the hut. This had, to a certain extent, driven away the loneliness of Kanakamma. Thereafter, if ever Sivayya scolded Raghavulu, he used to vent his anger on Sita. Although this saved the calves, a new problem emerged for Kanakamma, as Sita in turn vented her anger on the vessels.

Kanakamma’s luck was bright. The problem was solved in the next two years.

That morning Raghavulu had a good bashing. He went into the hut irritably and yelled at Sita. She came out, equally irritably, and tucking in the fringe of the sari, dumped herself in front of the utensils meant for washing. In the meanwhile, her two-year-old son, Ramudu, came; holding her sari and pulling it longingly, asked “Ammaplease give me a kani[12]”. Sita spanked him on his back with that very dirty hand. He cried for a while. In the meanwhile, a puppy came there smelling the ground and stood there. Ramudu, while crying, threw a stone at it. The hurt puppy went out yelping feebly. Ramudu stopped his crying. Kanakamma, sitting in the veranda and picking out weeds from the greens, had seen all this. Calling Raghavulu’s son to her, she gave him a kani. Wiping out his eyes, Ramudu went out. Kanakamma had the last laugh—a hearty laugh, for the kani could save the calves and the utensils.

[1] Pedda paleru—senior laborer working on annual contract
[2] Ammagaru—a respectful way of calling the land lady by the laborer.
[3] Munsif—village head.
[4] Garu—word usually suffixed to the name of an elderly person, indicating respect; in some cases it is suffixed to the designation also.
[5] Palerulu—bonded laborers.
[6] Anna—one-sixteenth of a rupee.
[7] Paan—made of betel leaves along with a mixture of spices such as cardamom,  betel nuts, grated coconut and small pieces of candy; usually chewed after meals or on special occasions like weddings or festivals.
[8] Beedi—South Asian cigarette, filled with tobacco flakes and wrapped in a tendu leaf with a string tied at one end.
[9] Amma—a respectful way of calling the land lady.
[10] Avakaya—a traditional pickle made in Andhra Pradesh with mangoes
[11] Gongura—a leafy vegetable; pickle made of this is very famous in Andhra Pradesh.
[12] Kani—denomination that was in use up to 1960; sixty-fourth of a rupee


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