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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Another Way (Marodari)

Original in Telugu - Abburi Chaya Devi
Translator - GRKMurty

Abburi Chaya Devi (1933 - ) is a noted feminist writer from Andhra Pradesh. She was awarded the Central Sahitya Akademi award in 2005 for her anthology of Telugu stories—'Tanamargam'.    Chaya Devi continues to be active in her literary activities even at the age of 79. She has many works to her credit including translation of German fiction, collection of essays, a biographical novelette, a travelogue on China and a compilation of 20th century women writers in Telugu. She was a member of the General Council of Sahitya Akademi (1998-2002).

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Another Way 

As her daughter, Suhasini, is entering the kitchen, Syamala utters, “It is better to die rather than …!” a little loudly.  It is not, of course, for the first time that she said so, nor did her daughter hear it for the first time.

Whenever any problem pops up, which she feels helpless in countering, her amma prefers death.  Shuhasini also knows that once the problem was resolved she would become normal again. That’s why, listening to what her mother has said, she grins. Hearing her daughter’s laughter, Shyamala gets annoyed.

Staring at her daughter frowningly, she says, “Why laughing?”

“Why …what’s it that is haunting you so much… to say ‘better to die’? By the bye, is it that you alone or all of us in the family have to die?” says Shuhasini mockingly. 

“Having married your father and given birth to you children, I must die, why you all!” says Shyamala.

“Why are you talking so harshly as though something untoward had happened? Why feel so sad?” says Suhasini in order to pacify her. 

Wiping away her tears, Shyamala says, “Yes! Isn’t it because of me that you aren’t getting any proposal for marriage alliance?” 

Genuinely surprised, Suhasini says, “What amma? What are you talking… how come, because of you no alliance is forthcoming? What did you do?”

“Because I am black in complexion, you too were born with black complexion! And it’s because of your black complexion that whoever comes seeking alliance is turning away! That’s why your grandmother didn’t initially agree for my marriage with her son. She mentioned an axiom: ‘If the daughter-in-law is of black complexion, the whole race will be of black complexion.’ That turned out to be true in my case,” says Shymala, bowing her head as though she had committed a crime.

“Oh! Come on amma, you and your blind faith! The science of genetics doesn’t say that mother’s complexion alone will be inherited by children! Could get father’s complexion too”, says Shuhasini.

“To your misfortune, you got my complexion”, says Shyamala, feebly.  

“It’s alright amma, whoever likes my black complexion would marry me. Someone might have already been born for me… would be somewhere … Hasn’t dad married you, just like that!” says Suhasini laughing casually.

Oh! Yes, your dad did marry me … but after taking a dowry of twenty five thousand! Whereas you are now sticking to your principle … of not marrying anyone who asks for dowry. Who would come with such generosity?” says mother.

“Neither do I need such a bounty. I would marry him who would not mind my complexion. Even otherwise, couldn’t life go on without marriage? I shall lead a happy life proudly without the need to bend my head for those three knots,” thus saying, she picks up two pakodi pieces, that her mother has just fried, from the plate.

“Ha, living happily… pompously! Do you think I would be forever around you catering to all your needs, for you to lead a happy life?” thus challenges Shyamala.

“No one is eternal amma. If I go before you – say, right now – neither you nor I would have any issue!” says Suhasini with a serious look on her face.

“Chi, shut up, why that horrid talk!” says her mother.

“Yes, amma…haven’t you said it would be better to die rather than … so then why not me say the same? Having born to you people, having made you spend so much on my education, finally when it came to my marriage… I became a cause for so much of your trauma; shouldn’t I then, feel like committing suicide?” says Suhasini, though meant to tease her, as she says her voice trembles.

Flinging the spoon on the stand, Syamala hugs her daughter at once, warns her in a cringing tone: “Never say it again.”  

Freeing herself from her mother’s hands slowly, Syamala says: “You too don’t ever talk about dying. As though there is no other way, why do you keep on thinking ‘death is better’? However insurmountable the problem might be, death is not the answer amma. If you die, would our problem get solved? Think it over,” says she to comfort her mother.

“That’s true; but no marriage alliance is forthcoming for you. I am facing a hell in putting up a brave façade before the neighbors. All this makes me feel that it would be better to die swallowing something or the other…” repeats Shyamala, supporting herself.  

“It is because of your habit… the habit of uttering, ‘it’s better to die rather than…’ at every damn obstacle that frequents us that last year younger brother attempted suicide by drinking Baygon spray. Thank God, because I saw it well in time, he is alive today. Is it that losing their nerve, everyone should commit suicide? Mustn’t we have the courage to face the life? Is there no other way? You are our mother, you gave us birth, you reared us, being elder, if you exhibit tameness, where else can we look for strength amma”, says Suhasini emotionally.

Tears roll down from Shyamala’s eyes.

Though felt like drawing mother into her embrace, staying in her position, Suhasini says, “Amma, it’s not crying what we should do.”

“What then … should I do? … What shall we do … for you now? We gave you good education. Imparted you good skills. Reared you to be healthy. What else these men and those who gave birth to them need?” says Shyamala in a shrill voice.

“It’s not merely to send me away, marrying me off, that you nurtured me into what I am. You have reared me into a woman of her own character. Doing a job, I can stand on my own feet. I shall live my life in the way I want to. I shall get married whenever a right person comes. I don’t think marriage alone is the goal. I don’t think there is no another way of living,” asserts Suhasini categorically.

Her mother turns towards the stove, of course, mechanically.  As Suhasini turns to the other side, she sees her father standing at the entrance of the kitchen.

Suhasini didn’t notice when he had come. She could see an encouraging smile on her father’s face. Looking at her father, she smiles confidently.


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