Her Decision

English Translation: Dr. K.Meera Bai

Telugu original: “NIRNAYAM” by Dr K. Meerabai

Ten year old Varuni saw her sister Vasavi getting down from the rickshaw and ran into the house announcing to her mother “ amma! Elder sister has come” and ran back.

Krishnamma’ hands shivered as she was draining out the excess water from the the rice bowl . She felt weak and sat down drying her perspiring forehead with the lose end of her saree.

Kodandam who was reading the news paper, put it aside as he saw his daughter climbing up the steps carrying her suitcase. He took the suitcase from her hands and enquiried her “why have you come alone?”

The moment vasavi saw the sad expression on her father’s face she felt like going back.

She walked into the house like a culprit, with her head bent avoiding looking into his face.

Kodandam felt heavy- hearted as he observed her listless eyes and tired face as if burdened by all the hopelessness in the world.

‘Oh God save us’ he muttered as he sat back in his chair.

Krishnavenamma controlled herself and came out to receive her daughter.

“there is no letter from you since last month. Is everybody at home ok? How about your health? Where is your son?” She enquired.

At the sight of her mother, suppressed tears welled out from vasavi’s eyes.

She crumbled down as if she could not stand and buried her head on her knees.

Her mother sat by her side stroking her hair lovingly, providing her solace.

“Oh God! an unmarried daughter is said to be like a furnace on the parents’ bosom. Why did you make this married daughter of ours a furnace on or bosom?”Her eyes filled with tears at this thought.

“ Sister! During this visit too you will stay here for long. Right?” Varuni who was unaware of the burning problems of the elders asked Vasavi wishfully.

“ shut up and get out “ krishnavenamma chided her.

“ Ammaa! The very sight of me troubled you with the fear that I might stay here for long. Why do you give vent to your frustration on her? “ Vasavi smiled sadly.

She gently removed varuni’s hands from her shoulders saying” Varalu! I want to talk to ammaa. Go and play outside.”

“ You always say that. You never talk to me! “ Varuni walked out stamping her feet angrily.

“ Look amma! Even the little one doesn’t have any respect for me..” Vasavi said.

“ She is young. Leave her. Go and wash your face and feet. A hot cup of coffee will freshen you up.” her mother cajoled her.

Chandramouli who returned home just then, looked at his sister with an unpleasant expression as he went in. Vasavi felt hurt as Chandra Mouli did not even say hello to her .

“ I am going out. Let the children have their dinner.” Kodandam said loudly as he left the house.

Vasavi was not angry with her father who avoided talking to her.

Vasavi hated herself for the present situation.

“ what is the problem now amma? Can’t we live peacefully? Chandramouli asked his mother.

“It is our fate. What can we do? Don’t say such things. If she hears she will feel bad.” Krishnavenamma whispered.

‘In general parents would feel happy if their daughter came to visit them. But her fate was such that they were deprived of that happiness’ Vasavi sighed.

She stood at the kitchen door and said “ This time there is no going back for me . I came here to stay back ammaa.”

Chandramouli was shocked to hear this and looked into her face questioningly.

His heart ached at the sight of his sister who used to be like a fresh Jasmin bouquet now looking like a dried up creeper. Feeling helpless he bowed his head.

“ Why do you utter such words? A married girl visiting her parents should get her lap filled with rice and fruits and go back.” Krishnavenamma tried to check her but her words lacked enthusiasm.

“ Every time I came here, some how you managed to fulfil their demands by borrowing money, but this time it is beyond you people.” Vasavi’s voice shivered.

Within six months after their marriage,they invited their daughter and son- in -law for Deepaavali festival and presented them new clothes. Then Vasavi murmured that her husband wanted an Aristocrat suitcase as gift.

Kodandam some how adjusted extra six hundred rupees to fulfil their son in law’s desire.

With in one year they had to bring Madhavi for her first delivery. Even before they paid back the loan they took to celebrate the marriage,they had to borrow to perform baby shower and meet naming ceremony expenses.

Vasavi’s mother in law presented a hundred rupee worth shirt to her grand child. While leaving, the son in law instructed his wife not to come back empty-handed but get a “two in one stereo tape recorder” from her father even if she had to extend her stay there for two more months.

To carry on his order kodandam again borrowed three thousand rupees to buy the stereo set and took his daughter to her in laws house.

With in three months there came the news of Vasavi’s abortion with the demand that she be taken to her parents home.

Krishnavenamma was pained to see her daughter’s condition and chided her “ being an educated girl, can’t you take care?”

“ what can I do ammaa? He would not take care. . When I asked for tablets he rediculed me saying ‘your parents have not given me any property to buy you the pills.”

The mother brought her home and took care of her for two months giving her medicines and tonics . When she became healthy, they dropped her back .

They were worried to see Vasavi coming back now with in four months after that incident.

Vasavi waited to join her father for dinner .

“ So. What does your husband say? Why did you leave the child there? ? Would he not miss you?”

“ Father! Your son-in-law wants to buy a second – hand scooter which costs around nine thousand. He wants you to adjust at least five thousand.” Vasavi replied with her head bent low.

“Even if I am prepared to beg to get that money, who will give me?” Kodandam’s voice shivered with frustration.

Next morning when kodandam was going out, Vasavi came to him and said “ “ Father! I will not go back to him . I will stay back with you people.”

“Don’t you want us to celebrate your sister’s marriage and settle her? As your parents , somehow we have to meet their demands. . But don’t entertain ideas which will ruin our reputation .” Saying so kodandam left.

He sold away the last silver ware they had and for the rest of the money he approached his kith, kin swallowing his pride. It took one week to get the required five thousand.

Vasavi spent the days as if she was in deep meditation.

Krishnavenamma was down with fever because of the mental agony.

One fine day kodandam said, “ I can’t apply for leave. Your mother is not well. I will send Mouli with you. You better go back to your husband. If you delay, son in law might get angry”.

“Father! Did any one drop me here ? Why should you follow these courtesies ? Mouli never liked them. Moreover he has his examinations. The place is not far off. I will go on my own.“ Vasavi said.

Kodandam agreed to this very reluctantly.

“After all it is not a new place. Don’t worry .I will write to you when I reach home. Vasavi assured her parents.

“ Tell my son in law that I can not adjust money hereafter” kodandam said .

Vasavi bid farewell to them saying “ Father! I will not give you an occasion to worry about me in future.”

Even after two weeks there was no word from Vasavi. Krishnavenamma was upset because there was no letter from her daughter.

Though outwardly kodandam appeared calm,he was worried too and was planning to send Mouli to her place.

Then there arrived two letters.

The first one was from his son in law .

He wrote to say as his wife did not return even after a month, it was confirmed that she did not want either her husband or her son . So he decided to divorce her and asked them to have the good sense to make the procedure smooth.

Kodandam’ was shocked.His immediate concern was the safety of Vasavi.

Mouli saw his father’s confusion,asked his father “ who wrote that letter?” and then he saw the other letter and opened it saying “oh! this letter is from my sister”.

Kodandam snatched the letter and started reading it.

“ Dear father! You need not worry about me. Here after I have decided not to live as his wife but to remain as your daughter only. You have asked me to tell him not to bother you for more money. If I did that, you people would have to see me dead.

These two years I went through hell in their house. I did not tell you because it would hurt you. This time I refused to approach you for money. They treated me like an animal. I was beaten and locked in a room with no food for three days. They did not allow my son to come to me. When I cried and said I would commit suicide, my mother in law said there was kerosene oil in that room which I could use to immolate myself.

For my husband, I was no more than a machine that satisfied his lust. My mother in law treated me like a servant. My sister in law took every opportunity to find fault with me and got me scolded by her imbecile brother. My mother in law encouraged her son to punish me physically . They did not allow me to to take my son into my lap. When I came to you they had refused to send him with me. Their idea was I would come back with money at least for him.

Some how you adjusted the money they asked for the scooter.But they would not be satisfied with that money and once again I would have to face the torture.

Is it not better to live on my own rather than die at their hands? I know they would bad mouth me.I don’t care as long as you believe that your daughter would never do wrong. Don’t think that I tarnished your prestige and that this would impact my sister’s future. Society is changing. As we got rid of “ Sati” we will also see the end of dowry deaths. I don’t want to be a sacrificial goat at the altar of marriage. I am sure you would appreciate my bold step rather than see your daughter whom you had brought up with love and care die at their hands. Regarding my son-though the bond of umbilical cord is inseparable,when it chokes me I should cut it.

Now I stay with my friend and am trying for a job. Even if I don’t get a job, I can earn by sewing clothes or doing embroidery work. The money you gave for the scooter will help me settle down independently. I seek your forgiveness and blessings. I convey my respects to mother and blessings to Mouli and Varuni. A word from you in reply will assure me of your love and give me confidence to go forward.

Varuni.

Kodandam was nonplussed for a while. Then he pulled himself up, and put the divorce papers sent by his son in law along with a short note saying “ our blessings will always be with you. Do what must be done dear” in another envelope and posted it.

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