Translation: swatee Sripada
We are ten to fifteen, good friends.
We meet twice or thrice a year. We discuss joys and troubles, literature; stories so on and so forth. We talk everything, eat and drink what we like the best and celebrate. I have to tell this number ten to fifteen because four to five of us miss the get together due to the pressure of work or something else. It is ok.
We met recently in the month of May during summer vacation. As usual the programme started. Our discussion started with feminism and proceeded to boyfriends.
Swapna started narrating one of her experiences, wait a minute, before she starts, I should say something about her. She is determined and consistent, very liberal in thinking. Ready to do any sacrifice for the sake of friendship, she has been sharing her life with Chandra without even a thought of marriage or any such thing. They never had any problems, insecurity or insincerity.
Ok, then let us lend our ear to her.
Swapna went on.
“Recently, on a Sunday, two of Chandra’s friends came for dinner … we all had some beer. …”
Shanta continued, “After that they might be in a queue to toilet. Is this all, or something interesting comes up?”
Swapna glanced at Shanti furiously “stop your jokes my dear, when I complete you can play your jokes”
“Sorry! I’ll not intrude” Shanta kept her finger on mouth and tightly held her hands together like an LKG girl.
We all controlled our laugh looking at Swapna, then turning seriously requested,
“Ok tell the matter first”
“It was all most nine and we thought it as the time for dinner. Chandra went inside to set the table. One of his friends followed him to help. I and the other one remained in the hall. He came suddenly close to me, pressed on my shoulder and started talking very indecently. I do not know what to do. Pulled out his hands harshly and went inside.
Later I felt embarrassed to talk to him.”
Her nervousness was displayed by her rubbing hands.
“We all, every girl or woman, at one or the other time face such things. Every time when it happens, we experience a kind of revulsion as if we did a mistake. The change is needed. We don’t need to have a guilty mind for someone else’s mischief” our activist friend Anu was ready to deliver a lecture.
“Wait that is not the main thing,” Swapna was irritated at once. Shanta tried to say something but once again kept her finger on her lips.
“I forgot this long back but recently I came to know what he thought, he considered that feminists would be very free: but they have high caste feeling, that’s why I denied his proposal as he belonged to a lower caste, he is propagating the same. …..”
We all were shocked. Is this the line of his thinking?
“What he means –feminists are liberal means are they available always…” Indira expressed her fury. We are scared of her anger. Meanwhile Shanta offered drinks cooling us with her words – “be quiet, my dear friends …. anger is our enemy”.
After that, our discussion twisted and twisted with many turns. Single woman, double relationships, lonely mothers, single fathers, old and aged parents, —- —when it was going on and on endlessly, Shanta opened her mouth to say something.
We observed pin drop silence. Normally Shanta listens all of us discuss and finally cuts a joke and makes everyone laugh. When we discuss very seriously in full all temper, she made us laugh many a time with her jokes and turned the atmosphere light. She never used to discuss her personal matters. Now, she kept her face seriously and with a deep pondering, signed us to keep quiet and pay attention to her. We all shut our mouths.
“I and Seenu met and talked face to face a few times only. The age of our friendship is just four years. In this span we met only four times.
Four years back,
Those were the early days of my return from foreign, I saw him in Vijayawada. I think he was Sunday in charge of a newspaper. The very first day he asked, “I heard that you are a writer, why don’t you contribute some articles?”
“still I have not yet landed on earth dear, still feeling that I am in a plane, may be jetlag, I can’t write” –was my reply.
When we met second time in Vijayawada, Seenu again asked articles.
“I don’t like getting any publicity through your magazine” I replied very proudly.
He never mentioned it after that. That way I could not write anything for him when he was alive. Third time we met in Hyderabad in my home. On some work, he came from Vijayawada talked about the work and went away.
After that when he came to settle permanently in Hyderabad, very lately after six months I came to know about it. We never met or talked for a long time, even on phone. At that time, we never had a phone at home.
We were eagerto know about the things,
“Just a minute” she went inside and brought back the glasses duly filled. We felt happy to have another drink but showed our irritation for the pause of the story.
“Ok. When I had the phone, he called me one midnight. He chit chatted for a while and expressed his opinion about my wasting time uselessly on that old rogue, he meant my boyfriend, and about feeling vexed of my life, and went on and on.
“It is personal. None of your business” I cradled the phone with a bang.
“But now I feel that what he said was a fact. “She remained silent looking in to her glass for a long time.
Recalling her memories, she went on.
“Fourth time, he stayed full night at my home. I understood him completely that night.
Though the rent was a bit higher, I had taken a big house, like a palace with many rooms and a big hall. Owners were good. I never faced any problems from their side as a single woman.
However, many a time I remained lonely in that spacious building. My daughter used to go to my sisters or friends’ home. My boyfriend used to come either once in a week or in a month.
They never thought of my loneliness. That day, I was all alone. My daughter went to my mother, no sign of my boyfriend’s arrival. I could not sleep. No one was there to talk, to overcome the sleeplessness I had some wine. No sign of sleep but very strongly I felt to call someone to talk.
I called Seenu and talked about my loneliness and sleeplessness. He himself offered to come.
Oh! Yes, I did fish curry, you like it” I replied.
One hour, one and a half hour passed but no sign of Seenu’s coming.
Again, the phone chimed. He could not locate the house and asking directions. Seenu not yet had seen this house. I sent the directions and after eleven he came searching and searching. He brought with him a bottle of whisky for him and a gin for me, four years back what I said he remembered –“I like only two- one is vodka and the other one gin”.
A lot of love swelled for him. However, I denied to take gin and said I hate drinking and boozers. Change is the law of life……Seenu had some whisky and I too had some wine. We had not yet taken our dinner. The feeling of someone with me fulfilled my hunger.
However, I was feeling too sleepy. Still Seenu went on talking as I was listening. He recalled some of the old melodies and asked me to sing.
I can remember the tune but not the song and wording. Changing all the words sometimes, I sang it as a parody. However, I sing Seenu enjoyed and praised it. We heard some cassettes, mixing and remixing all old and new singers. We, all the ten, are dying with enthusiasm and continued to listen.
Seenu suddenly asked, “To sleep with him”. I was not shocked. I never thought of it as a sin. However, I do not have the desire or eagerness and hurry to sleep with him.
Is there any rule for a single woman to sleep with every person who proposes? All men might have planned and passed this rule. How egoistic are the creatures? What a fat they have….
Analyzing all this in my inside, I thought of just to test him to know what he is?
“Are you ready to marry me?” I asked.
“Are you crazy my dear? Single life is joyful, we both are the best examples,” he said.
“You will be happy as a single as you are a male, but you people define feminism in your own terms and convert it as per your needs. You exploit the single woman psychology according to your norms. If woman like me, try to be happy, there will be many obstacles. Is there any male who can accept a lady equal to him in all respects and give true reverence to her?” I mused within.
Nevertheless, very peacefully, I said, “I have no desire to sleep with you Seenu”.
However, I felt guilty within me.
When I lifted my head just before saying something, he was not there. Have I hurt him? Might have gone home, ok let him go… I went into deep sleep.
Shanta stopped looking in to her glass. The story turned dull- we thought. After a sip, she started again.
When it was daybreak, when I went in to the hall he was sleeping there on a divan as an infant.
So much innocence peeped from his face. He looked pretty. I woke him up and asked him to hug me. We embraced each other. There was no sexual desire or any whim or fancy or emotion in it.
Everything was quite peaceful. So much bravery. That’s all. He went home.
That night, without any physical contact, a kind of love and respect for Seenu originated. That night when I was in that condition any one would have forced me; physically I too ws a weakling ….
I forgot to tell you all, Seenu was not only handsome but had a smart personality also. He would have lied to marry me and would have cheated me. However, Seenu did not do that. I liked his sincerity.
Seenu is the first and last one who considered my likes and dislikes and respected them. After that, we never met. Two or three times we talked over the phone. Once I invited him to show my articles, he promised but did not turn up. I too never cared. When my father was sick and admitted in hospital, when I was in need of some money, I called him. I talked but never asked the money.
Last time I saw him was as a corpse. Even after death, he looked pretty and handsome; do you say he is no more, why? Still I can feel him greet me…”
“Shanti what is this?”
My Seenu is still in my mind as an unforgettable friend. My Seenu has not dead.” Shanti started crying. She cried for a long time. She never cried, not even when her husband died after a prolonged sickness.
It is ok. She was tired of looking after him –we thought. Now we are helpless when she cried. Silence webbed around. Coming out of it she asked a glass of water –had it in a single sip. “My story, unlike the Telugu movies, didn’t end either with a marriage or sleeping with someone. I am very unhappy over it” she chuckled and “No. After a long time I had too much drink “as if she did not know which diagnosis to confirm, looked at us helplessly as she used to look at his senior doctor?