Indraganti Janaki Bala
Translation: Swatee Sripada
When the phone went on ringing before it turned morning, Shakunthala took the phone lying beside her pillow, without even opening her eyes. Guessing who it might be kept the phone near the ear and said “hello”
“Shaku! Good news for you! To tell you that I made this awakening call” Vanaja said from the other side.
“Good news! What’s it? Spell it out, spell it out”
She hastened her.
“By then you come to my studio. In the process of selecting you as an anchor, it was twelve last night. I thought of calling you immediately. Why disturb, so I am calling you now” at a breath she said.
“Is it?” casting away her laziness Shakuntala shouted.
“It is not even April first” Vanaja laughed.
“I can’t believe it”
“Now you believe it, get up, get ready and double up. Don a bright colorful dress, if you have. we too have costumes here, let us see. Make up its ok. Bye,” she cradled the phone.
Suddenly she felt awakened. When she could understand what Vanaja said she at once experienced the tension.
As she can’t digest what to do for a while, she remained squatted there. Though happy on one side, a kind of dissatisfaction bothered within. The desire that she was dreaming for quite a long time materialized suddenly. Now, she has to utilize the chance and prove herself.
She hopped off the bed. Lavanya on the other bed by her side, removing aside the blanket from her face “Oh! It’s already the day for you” again she kept it in.
By eight-thirty keeping her feet in shoes
“I am leaving,” she said.
“All the best bye” Lavanya waved her hand.
Changing two buses by the time she reached the TV office it’s not even a quarter to ten.
She sighed with relief, entered in. once she had been there with Vanaja.
A boy standing there asked “are you Shakuntala madam? Vanaja madam will come. Come in and be seated”
He took her in and showed a chair.
A big office table was there in the middle of the room. Already arranged water glasses were there. Shakuntala had a glass of water and had it thirstily. She felt comfortable. Tension subsided and she felt settled. No idea of what to do and how to do it.
Suspense till Vanaja arrives, but something should be done instantaneously and perfectly. It’s a challenge.
Vanaja entered in like a storm “Hi, Shaku, you are very lucky” she moved her holding her shoulders.
“Yes, thank you very much,” she said softly.
“It’s ok. Did you know how great the program is, that you are going to anchor for the first time?”
Shakuntala with a blank face said, “How do I know?”
“Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. In that context, we have a program. Two renowned women writers, a doctor, and a psychiatrist in between a cooking program by a mother and a daughter. Entire program yours only”
As soon as she heard Mother’s Day Shakuntala showed resentment on her face. But it seems Vanaja had not noticed her gesture. So immediately she took out a script of four pages from the drawer,
“There is no equal to a mother in greatness. No, where we could get the sweetness of words except in mothers. The melody in a mother is a rare boon. As she went on reading Shakuntala felt infuriated but the idea that she has to read it beautifully with a splendid gesture, making a strong influence on the listeners shriveled her down.
In a traditional dress and ultra-modern makeup with bangles up to elbows, with a heavy locket chain joining the hands and separating them, swaying the neck strangely nodding the head and circularly moving the eyes quivering her body beautifully Shakunthala by hearted the script in half a minute and spelled it out easily.
The programmer came to her two-three times and said “the language is good, even expression too. But the feeling should be still stronger”
She performed it to her maximum.
After two hours of recording, it was ok. Doctors, writers, and cooks distributed the motherhood to one and all happily.
Finally, he said, “Everything is ok. But still, care should be taken in expressing the feelings “
“This is the first time, know?” said Vanaja.
“Yes, yes” he nodded his head and left the place.
Vanaja shook the hand and said “let us meet the day after tomorrow. Tomorrow I should go and meet my mother. can’t miss the program. You should tell the details, bye”
Shakuntala came out. A kind of heart burning, mental disturbance and a bit of despair….
Grief overwhelmed. A month back, her thoughts, ideas, aspirations were different. Suddenly, it seemed, the colorful flower garden was wiped out in a storm.
** ** **
When Shakuntala was about to leave the home that day Mahalakshmi aunty entered in calling “Tulasi”.
As soon as she entered in had a stare at Shakuntala, expressed her enrapture with eyes,
“No cinema star equals you” joining her thumb and forefinger indicate ‘superb’ gesture.
She felt shy and said” thank you aunty” and exited.
Meanwhile, Tulasi peeped out into the hall and invited her “come in Lakshmi”
Shakuntala returned to take the address slip left in the showcase in the hall. She heard strange things.
how did you get her on the line, such a beautiful girl you could get Tulasi” Maha Lakshmi said.
Very clearly and neatly when she heard this Shakuntala stood there shocked.
“Oh! Close people say that she never looks like my daughter and no resemblances at all” Tulasi said showing her affection.
Shakuntala felt the uneasiness and heaviness in her heart.
“In reality, even Hemamalini also didn’t have such a beautiful kid, whose daughter she might be probably a royal lady might have delivered and thrown her out”
Shakuntala could understand the matter entirely.
Nearly four-five years back when her uncle Vivekam came she had a suspicion in his talking way. But soon it went off aside.
She took the slip from under the doll in the showcase. Tears were not at all controlled. “Who am I? If Tulasi is not my mother, then who is my true mother? They were talking the same thing. When my mother left me on the road, she accepted me and brought me up, it seems.”
Instead of feeling the overwhelming love on her for bringing her up in that movement a sort of revenge and fury on her mother welled up. Tulasi came out as she heard the sound in the hall, saw Shakuntala and felt apprehensive. Moreover, with a pale face and eyes filled with tears when she watched her, she felt anxious. She was dumbstruck. Shakuntala dumped herself on the sofa and started crying bitterly. Mahalakshmi came out, realized her fault and tried to correct it.
“Shaku, my dear, what is this?” she tried to convince her but she started crying loudly.
Both could not understand what to do.
Shakuntala, who went out happily in a full swing with final touches to her makeup within no time turned ugly with a pale face, undone hair, and smears of kajal and tears on her cheeks. Mahalakshmi and Tulasi convinced her and revealed her the truth when no way was left.
“I thought of revealing this to you but the days passed on. Suddenly your overhearing it this way and feeling troubled pains me. But what is my fault? We were in Bellary at that time. Early morning when I came out to clean and put the Rangoli at the premises, I saw you in old rags. Astonished I took you up into my hands and surveyed the surroundings. Nobody was seen. I woke up your father; I mean my husband and said the matter. Neighbors gathered and made an issue, asked us to hand over the child to a police station. But we both decided to keep the child with us only. We showed the child to the doctor and used the medicines. By that time, probably you were ten to twelve days old only.”
“Your father brought you up as dear as his own life. Always we both talked about you. Just before death too, he was anxious about you”
Tulasi started weeping.
*** **** ***
Not before a week, Shakuntala can turn normal. As if she entered into a new world and a new life she felt. Every minute she treated herself as an orphan, as soon as the birth mother had left her and this feeling haunted her and wounded her. She could not share it with Tulasi who had brought her up more than a mother.
“This maternity, love of mother motherly feeling all are trash, I believe. They say that a mother after delivering the child can sacrifice even her life for it but only to say and to listen. It’s not true. Maybe after the birth, as she brings up the child without even leaving it a minute a kind of kinship develops. An attachment results and the mother struggles for them, that too within her limits, without losing her modesty, her comforts her individuality her aspirations but not at the stake of them. If not, so why mothers abandon their infants here and there? They say because of circumstances. So when the situation favors them then all the love affection and everything. Even if a father, from the birth of a child, remains attached to it, doing all the required service, feeding it, and comforting when it cries, he too will have the motherly attitude and whatnot. Delivering a child is a mechanical process. No need to high light it. And no need to neglect also.
There is no rule that because a child comes out from the womb of a woman that lady should have immense love for it. Love is a habit, a bonding, an attachment. That’s all.”
Shakuntala remained gaping listening to her words.
“I can’t believe what you say. When everything turned a false suddenly…”
“Don’t believe at once, slowly you try and understand”
“Everything is perplexing” Shakuntala uneasily nodded her head.
“ if you oblige that love persists only due to giving birth, your real mother who left you eighteen years back delivering you should have more love compared to Tulasi who had brought you up…….”
“No, no… My mother, I mean who brought me up had matchless love for me. In this twenty-days, she is emaciated”
“So leave your useless foolish thoughts. What we can get in this life is love. It is ignorance that we became restless as is we lost something elsewhere.” she looked at Shakuntala in a friendly way and smiled.
So many meanings materialized in her smile.
Gargi’s (who was working for the woman heart organization) words worked on Shakuntala excellently. For the last twenty days, she had been put up with Shakuntala as she annoyed her. So many times her mother implored her but it was in vain. She refused to go there. The reason is not known. When Lavanya came to know the matter she brought her there. It looks as if the clouds are cleared. Immediately, she felt someone has taken out the pain in her heart.
“Only women should bring up children means constantly they should do that work. They should not get vexed. The infant gets breast milk from the mother alone. So the whole work is allotted to women. If given casually they may revolt, they may demand men to do the service to children. So mesmerizing them with magical words like womanish attitude, maternity, motherhood, and maternal love they made them work. Otherwise, changing the diapers, giving a bath, looking after when they are sick everything falls on men. So they left the work unanimously saying that the bringing up of the children is the duty of women alone. If a wife expires after giving birth to children they marry immediately and defend themselves saying that the child should be brought up- as if justifying their actions.
If we think wisely, there is no discrimination as the work of man or woman. Everyone can do every work if tried.
Once haven’t they said that man only can earn? Now, are the women not working?
If the reality is considered to let the human be man or woman it is natural to expel the obstacles in the way of living.
Here there is no separate rule for a mother or a father.
“Don’t spoil your mood thinking about the bygone past. We can only try to understand the people and their acts in the past” Gargi breathed fast after a long lecture.
Children too when they are brought up in a home with parents, they have love and bonding. Many people complain that if they are brought up away from them, they never had any love for the parents. They feel bad and It was treated as the western culture. The decision of visiting parents at least once in a year is not related to love and kinship. It has not yet spread into our culture. We make this habit very actively” she stopped.
Shakuntala tweaked suddenly. As if the talk is over, she was going through her papers…
“Let me take leave. It’s good to come to you and listen to your talk. How can I express……….”
“Don’t express. Be happy. Don’t worry your mother at this age. Come and see me now and then” Gargi said.
Again she lifted her head, “I think tomorrow your program is there on TV, I’ll watch” she said smiling.
“Oh!! Would you……….it’s all……….”
Gargi chuckled. “How you said is important but not what you said”
Shakuntala came out with Lavanya purchased fruits and sweets, getting into an auto “Bye Lavanya” she said.
Shakuntala was anxious to go fast and see her mother.
“I should gift my mother a bouquet tomorrow and I should not trouble her at all,” she thought.
A native of Nizamabad, writes poetry in English and Telugu, Novels , stories In Telugu. Translates from Telugu to English and English to Telugu.
Published 5 poetry volumes in Telugu, 5 story anthologies, 5 novels and 32 translations. Loves and lives in poetry.