Political Stories by Volga
Sujatha had the belief, not just a suspicion, that Dhanalakshmi would not be a pretty woman. The wives of lovers in the stories and novels she had read weren’t pretty.
For some reason Sujatha believed that men who seek out pretty women like herself must be husbands of shrews, women who were uneducated, ugly and sick like brood hens, with hair tied in a knot. Women who yelled at everybody with little or no provocation. Naturally, she didn’t ask Rajarao if his wife was a beautiful woman. She wasn’t even curious.
Ever since she had realized that Rajarao was attracted to her, Sujatha had done everything to enhance her appeal, carefully observing every move he had made toward her and responding favorably. She had known that he was forty-years old, married, and a father of two; yet she gravitated toward him. At thirty-five-years old, she had escaped falling for such temptations on numerous earlier occasions, but this time she wasn’t even inclined to try.
Why should she spurn him? He wanted the love a beautiful, spunky, intelligent woman, thats why he was after her.
What had she accomplished remaining a virtuous woman?
Any accolades for remaining pure and virgin? Anyway she had already suffered through her share of rumors and accusations and shed her share of tears. It didn’t make any sense any longer to reject love and a relationship with a man, with its attendant experiences and pleasures. With these thoughts Sujatha invited Rajarao into her life without hesi-tation.
She had known in the back of her mind that one day she might have to evaluate whether the comfort and happiness this relationship would provide was worth it, but she never suspected that the day would arrive so soon. She had never imagined there could be so much grief in living as the ‘second’ woman of a man.
The first few days of their relationship had been quite happy.
The pride in having conquered Rajarao and the enthusiasm inherent in a new relationship had pleased Sujatha. She could think of nothing but Rajarao for many days. When he wasn’t around, her thoughts revolved around when she would see him again. Nothing else mattered. Gradually, the discontent that he wasn’t with her all the time and the doubt that he might not be pining for an opportunity to come to her as much as she pined for him had begun to creep into her mind and soon engaged it fully: She suffered an indefinable pain pounding her head. She was preoccupied now with thinking about him, no longer confident that he needed her and her love. The brooding left her weak and exhausted.
Eventually Sujatha reached the stage when she could no longer believe the excuses Rajarao gave for not visiting her more often. The excuses that his children were sick of that hiswife Dhanalakshmi might suspect the affair enraged her.
She resented not being the center of his attention anymore and was preoccupied with designs for keeping him hers, hers alone, and fully in her control.
Earlier Sujatha would go to the library whenever she had a free moment. Recently she started going to the beauty par-lor. She no longer met friends to see movies or go for a walk. All she did now was stay at home for fear that she might miss Rajarao if she went out. Though she was single she had rented a spacious house with a large front yard and had kept the house and the yard looking nice. Now they looked neglected. The friends she would invite home and engage in discussions with were no longer welcome, for she wanted to be alone when Rajarao came. She no longer invited over the children of friends whom she had played with and to whom she had taught songs. Visits to friends’ homes had grown less frequent. All her time was spent in waiting or pining for Rajarao. What used to be a vibrant life with lively relationships had gradually contracted. Now, her life was limited to the home. Even there, though, moments of happiness were few and far between.
Sujatha gradually became restless. She was more determined than ever to make Rajarao her own. Dhanalakshmi, whom She had ignored all along, had now become her rival. She reached a point where she was more preoccupied with thoughts of Dhanalakshmi than Raiarao. Somehow, she had to iberate him from Dhanalakshmi. He was not happy with her, she decided. Having noticed that Rajarao thoroughly enjoyed the dishes she made, she concluded that Dhanalakshmi had failed as a wife even in feeding her hus-band. Why shouldn’t he be hers when she had provided him and continued to provide him with comfort in so many ways?
In the past, she used to broach the subject of his divorce from Dhanalakshmi hesitantly and timidly, but now she asked him about it forcefully as if it were her right. Rajarao grew tired of this nagging and snapped at her occasionally.
On such occasions Sujatha felt restless after Rajarao left, brooded over her loneliness, indulged in self pity and cried.
Gradually she became emaciated with this worry.
Sujatha’s friends noticed the change in her. Geetha, a close friend, came to visit her one day and insisted on finding out what the problem was. Sujatha was at a stage where she could no longer keep it to herself. As the friend prodded her to reveal what was bothering her, Sujatha told her everything, anticipating that she would either get sympathy from the friend or a good dressing down. Geetha was a person with a bit of common sense. After carefully listening to her friend’s story, she thought of saying something that would comfort Sujatha. There was no point in scold ing her. She also did not wish to advise her to do this of
“You are not being wise,” Geetha told her.
Geting into a relationship with Rajarao was, by isel. note very wise thing to clo, Sun via as prepared to admit But Geetha said that that wasn’t the big mistake.
” I am not worried that you didn’t resist all attractions and remain celibate. I don’t necessarily believe that it is even desirable to do that. But fretting to make Rajarao yours exclusively – that is foolish, I think. If you thought the relationship with him was just another friendship, you wouldn’t have suffered through so much agony. I am your friend. I come to you when I feel like talking to you. We share our thoughts, learn from each other, and have fun. We spend time with each other as long as it doesn’t interfere with anything else. If your relationship with Rajarao was also like this, you would have avoided the agony you are going through. Now, look what you have done. You are not having any fun as before. You are restless and fully consumed by thoughts of him. You are emaciated. If a relationship does this to you, what does it tell you? A relationship or friendship should make us happy, should be a source of great joy. If we face problems, they can be overcome, but if all that the relationship is doing is to make you unhappy and sad, if it adds no new dimension to your life, no new joy, then we have to think seriously about it. You lost the self-confidence you had before. You never worried that you were missing something. We were all jealous of you that you stayed out of the family morass, but now you are desperately rushing into it. To me your anxiety appears unnec-essary. You knew he was married when you got into this.
Wanting him now exclusively is asking for trouble. Why do you want that grief? I don’t get it.?
“I don’t get it either. But the desire to have him for myself has been growing in me like cancer”
“Do you want to have a child with him….” asked Geetha, reflectively
Sujatha laughed. “There is no chance of that. He had the operation done.”
“Then why do you wantonly jump into a maelstorm? If he wants to be only with you, he will have to fight for a divorce. He’ll certainly blame you for all the problems the divorce proceedings will cause, and that can only ruin your relationship with him, not bring you closer together. After that he will begin to look at you like the vamp that separated him from his kids. He will not give up his kids. Fearing a growing distance between himself and his kids he will, in fact, try to endear himself to them. In that endeavor, he will inevitably move away from you. I don’t see how your relationship can survive that. Alternatively, if he wants to stay with his wife he’ll break off with you rather than put up with your nagging. You may not agree, but in my view, that is the best that can happen to you. You don’t seem to know that you are becoming his prisoner with reckless abandon.” After giving this long sermon, Geetha left.
However, much like a drop of water that fell on a red hot pan, the sermon didn’t stay long with Sujatha. Her mind continued to heat up like a pan on a burning stove. It was not likely to cool down any time soon. Sujatha even wondered whether she might be perversely enjoying the self-inflicted pain.
Vexed with this thought, she went to visit Birla Temple hop ing she would find peace there in the cool breeze, tranquil atmosphere and the presence of god. But that hope was dashed. Standing in the long queue strained her legs Sujatha. was displeased with herself for forgetting it was a Saturday a busy day at the temple; she could not even have a proper darsanam. Tired, she settled down near a patch of flowering plants to get some cool breeze.
The place was crowded; a cool breeze must have been on everyone’s mind that evening. Children were running around playing, bossing over their elders and getting a kick out of annoying them. Looking at them Sujatha felt at case and a smile crept on to her lips. Looking at the surroundings and observing people, she tried to forget her problems.
Just a few feet away from Sujatha two women sat silently, apparently lost in thought. One of them was strikingly beau-tiful, deserving of a second glance. Maybe beautiful wasn’t the right word, dignified probably. Light skin, bright eyes, stout, thick hair tied in a comely knot – Sujatha looked at her attentively a couple of times and then drifted back into her own world of problems. In the past when she found someone interesting like that, she would remember their features and try to sketch them later. It had been ten months since she held a pencil.
Why should she accept the lousy excuses Rajarao came up with? The next time, she would decide once and for all, one way or the other. How could he embrace that disgusting wife with the same hands that held her? Kiss the ugly woman with the same lips that kissed her? If he loved her, he should be hers. Why should she tolerate anything else?
Pondering on her own plight, Sujatha tried hard to keep her sorrow in check and hold her tears from welling up.
“Dhanalakshmi Don’t be foolish like Rajarao. Hold on to Yourself. Troubles come and go. Keep faith in God. It is strange that you have a problem like this while everybody thinks you are a lucky, fortunate woman.” Sujatha overheard a woman saying this to the beautiful woman.
Sujatha felt lightheaded listening to their conversation. This was Dhanalakshmi? Rajarao’s wife? His wife was this beautiful and dignified? The image of Dhanalakshmi filled Sujatha’s eyes and mind.
The other woman rose to leave. “Vadina, why don’t you go ahead? I would like to sit here for just a while longer,” Dhanalakshmi said.
The calm voice and the sophisticated manner of speaking didn’t escape Sujatha.
The other woman left. Dhanalakshmi sat there looking somber like Sujatha. Sujatha couldn’t take her eyes off her. Tears welled up in Dhanalakshmi’s eyes and trailed down her cheeks. Sujatha touched her own cheeks and found them wet, too. For a few minutes Sujatha continued to observe Dhanalakshmi and cry with her without her knowledge.
Dhanalakshmi stood up to leave. Sujatha walked behind her.
Dhanalakshmi waited at the bus stop. Sujatha stood next to her. The two were alone.
Sujatha palpitated when Dhanalakshmi looked at her. Trying to steady her nerves and no longer able to restrain the desire to speak with her, Sujatha asked, “Where do you have to go?”
“Vijay Nagar Colony’ replied Dhanalakshmi, courteously.
Dhanalakshmi made the same inquiry and Sujatha replied. ‘The to women exchanged pleasantries and learned about each other.
“You are a lucky woman,” said Dhanalakshmi, after finding out that Sujatha was single.
“Why do you say that?” asked a curious Sujatha.
“Once you are married, it is all problems,” Dhanalakshmi replied, glumly.
What is bothering you now?” asked an inquisitive, friendly Sujatha.
” am thinking of how to kill my husband. What can be more painful than that? Tell me?” She laughed, sadly.
“My house is nearby. If you don’t mind, please come over.”
Sujatha extended her a warm invitation.
Sujatha was quite awate that her eyes could easily express cordiality, and, if the other person was even remotely inclined to be friendly, could move her. Her confidence didn’t fail her this time, either. Dhanalakshmi agreed to come to Sujatha’s place.
Dhanalakshmi was impressed with Sujatha’s house and felt jealous of her wotry-free life. She didn’t hide her feelings from the host. As they continued to chat, Dhanalakshmi told Sujatha about the differences that cropped up between her and her husband Rajarao.
“I am tired of crying. For about a year now, I have been really disgusted with him. I am at a point now where I don’t hesitate even for the sake of children. One of these days I will divorce him?”
“Why should you divorce him? What is it you couldn’t give him? What is he looking for elsewhere? You have every right on him; he is yours, why should you give him up for others?” Sujatha spoke emotionally.
“That is what I thought, too, and tried reasoning with him for a year now, but I have run out of patience. If this continues I am afraid my life will be spent in bickering with him. Maybe human beings do not exclusively belong to anyone. We can’t claim as ours even the children we give birth to. How can a man who took a lakh of Rupees to marry me become my own?
“What! You gave him one lakh Rupees?”
“My future father-in-law told my father to forget about the alliance if the dowry was even one Rupee less than one lakh.
They were satisfied only after they had received one lakh Rupees, a scooter, an almirah, a dining table, and double cots. When Ilook back it all looks like a business deal. Back then I thought it was a profitable deal, but now it looks like Ilost everything?” Dhanalakshmi smiled sadly.
“So what do you do now?» Sujatha was so moved by Dhanalakshmi’s plight that she came close to revealing who she was and pledging to break off with Rajarao. But she couldn’t do it.
“I will separate from him and find some job to support myself. I think I will admit the children in some boarding school.”
Sujatha was confused. She had tried so long to make Rajarao her own, but now that his wife was practically giving him to her, why was she not excited about it? Why was she distressed?
“I passed B.Com. in first class. I would appreciate your help in finding a job. I can also type; I might be a bit rusty now, but I can pick up my speed in a few days.”
Sujatha could not hold her tears back. She sympathized with Dhanalakshmi and consoled her, yet she could not reveal her identity. Dhanalakshmi stayed a bit longer, gave Sujatha her postal address and took leave of her.
Sujatha could not imagine seeing Rajarao anymore. What if he came to see her? Sujatha packed a suitcase in a hurry with enough clothes for a week and took an auto rickshaw to go to Geetha’s place.
Geetha was astonished hearing Sujatha’s report. “The problems you get into are absolutely unbelievable! I was telling you not to take on the burden of Rajarao, now you tell me you are going to carry his wife’s cross too. I don’t see any happiness in your future,” she sighed.
For a week Sujatha managed to dodge Rajarao. She made sure he couldn’t reach her even at the office phone. The next Sunday she went back home from Geetha’s place, swept and wiped the house clean, and took a shower. No matter what she was doing now, the only thing on her mind was how to break up with Rajarao as quickly and easily as pos-sible. Preoccupied with that, she heated milk on the stove until it boiled and spilled over, and forgot about the curry on the stove until the bottom portion got burnt. Just as she was trying to scrape the unburnt curry into a small vessel, there was a knock on the door. It was Dhanalakshmi. Suatha was frightened. The very thought that Dhanalakshmi might have known she was the one who created all that havoc in her life unsettled Sujatha.
However, Dhanalakshmi’s friendly smile drove her fears away, and a relieved Sujatha invited her in and showed her to a chair.
Dhanalakshmi told her that she was leaving Rajarao, and had already admitted the children in a residential school.
Her plan was to stay with her parents for a few days and look for a job. “I think I would be the best model for feminine foolishness. In the past, whenever I thought of separating from my husband, I would remember that I would then have to admit the children in a residential school and would drop the idea, and fear even thinking about it again.
Admitting the children in a residential school had appeared as a dreadful thing to do. But yesterday, I took the children there and found so many other children! Only three of them were children of divorced parents. Now I just can’t figure out why divorced parents should feel so guilty when so many couples living together leave their kids in residential schools without any guilt. After seeing the children there, I felt confident that my children will find good friends. The burden on my shoulders is lifted now. All I need now is a job either here or in my home town.” Dhanalakshmi appeared quite self confident.
Sujatha had been confident like this before she met Rajarao.
After he entered her life, all she had was fear and doubt.
Insecurity every minute.
The more she looked at Dhanalakshmi’s demeanor, the more evident it became to Sujatha that she should get rid of Rajarao as soon as possible.
Rajarao came to see Sujatha the very next day. He had hoped to please her with the news of his divorce, but her decision
came to him as a shock.
“But I gave up Dhanalakshmi for you..” he said, still unable to believe what he heard.
“I know who gave up whom,” she said to herself, but in response to him she said she didn’t care. Rajarao was quite upset and angry. He threatened to humiliate her spreading the word about their relationship among her friends and office colleagues. “Do as you please? she told him. “If this is the price I have to pay to get my freedom and self confidence back and to get out of this insecurity, it is fine with me, but I can’t be tied up in this relationship with you and worry for the rest of my life when it might end, she told him firmly.
Sujatha remained distracted for about a month but now she didn’t have to worry about Rajarao anymore. He, on the other hand, came up a loser on both ends. He had his job transferred to another town and left.
Occasionally when Sujatha said, “Poor Rajarao,” Geetha rebuked her: “Why do you pity men? Trust me. There are plenty of women out there ready to rush to him with a lakh of Rupees, to rest their heads on his chest and find security in his arms.”
“Why couldn’t he marry a poor girl this time without seeking dowry and be a good husband?” Sujatha would say.
“I see, you want to take on the burden of a poor woman this time!”
‘Geetha would tease.
Geetha and Sujatha managed to find a job for Dhanalakshmi who took it with the blessings of her parents. She also chose to live in a Working Women’s Hostel run by two ladies.
Sujatha would visit her every Sunday and the two would pick up Dhanalakshmi’s children from the school and go to a park or cinema. Dhanalakshmi was a friendly person and Sujatha thoroughly enjoyed her company.
Dhanalakshmi earned a salary of one thousand Rupees and struggled to pay for room and board at the hostel, the children’s school fees, and make ends meet with what was left. Rajarao refused to pay any child support money until the court gave a verdict on the custody of the children.
How anybody could be that cruel and unconcerned about the welfare of his own children was a mystery! Though the children were doing well in the school, Dhanalakshmi worried about them constantly.
Sujatha was making inquiries to find a better job for Dhanalakshmi and was surprised when she told her one day that she was quitting her job. “I am going to run a hostel for working women,” she announced. There were about a hundred women in the hostel she was now staying in. It was being managed by two women. Apparently they made about ten, fifteen thousand Rupees a month. Dhanalakshmi’s plan was to start a hostel with about fifty tenants.
Sujatha liked the plan. They told Geetha also about it and the three of them looked for a good building, took a loan, bought the necessary furniture and supplies, and advertised their new business. The three worked hard and engaged all their creative energies in the effort. Twenty women joined the hostel during the first month. The number grew to seventy by the third month. They decided not to take any more tenants for lack of room.
Sujatha realized Dhanalakshmi’s talents as she watched her manage the hostel. It wasn’t easy to care for and please so many tenants. Now Sujatha also vacated her apartment and joined the hostel. At meal time, as she enjoyed Dhanalakshmi’s cooking, Sujatha would feel sorry for Rajarao for what he had lost with his irresponsible behavior.
A year had passed since the hostel had been founded. The friendship between Sujatha, Dhanalakshmi and Geetha had grown stronger. On several occasions Sujatha felt like re Vealing to Dhanalakshmi who she was, but could not bring herself to do it. But one day she did muster enough cour-age. It was the birthday of Dhanalakshmi’s daughter, celebrated joyously in the hostel. Dhanalakshmi was in a jovial mood. After all, she was doing well financially; her children were now living with her in the hostel, and they admired their mother. Why wouldn’t she be happy?
That night, after things quieted down, Dhanalakshmi came to her room. “Sujatha, I would like to thank you for all your help. It was entirely because of your help that I am happy today” She had tears in her eyes.
Sujatha thought there was no longer any point in hiding her past. “I was responsible for the problems between you and Rajarao. But after I had met you that day, I lost interest in the relationship with him and broke it off.” Dhanalakshmi was shocked to hear Sujatha’s words, but finally dissolved into laughing. Recapping all the events she laughed in wave after wave.
“I thought of telling you that I would withdraw myself from the relationship so that you could live with him. But then I decided that I would first break off with him and then you could decide what you wanted when he came back to you.
It wasn’t for me to decide what you should do.” Dhanalakshmi waved her off as Sujatha tried to apologize for the havoc she had created in her life.
“Believe me. You did me a big favor.”
“Really! How? Didn’t I mess up your life? Weren’t you left all alone and helpless?” asked Sujatha, reflecting on the past.
Dhanalakshmi laughed heartily.
“Mess! Helpless! My life was indeed a mess before I separated from him. In fact it had always been a mess. I had no idea what to do with my life before marriage. It was a huge confusion. I had always helplessly looked up to others to think for me and to make decisions for me. I felt miserable when I didn’t like their decisions, and afraid to tell them how I felt. Nobody cared how I felt, anyway. I have never been as happy or proud as I am today. You wouldn’t believe how worried and tense I was at the time of my wedding with all those concerns about the dowry and the for-malities. Once I was married it was a struggle to learn Rajarao’s ways and get used to accepting them as superior to mine. Being at his beck and call, seeking his permission for everything, worrying that he might get angry at some thing I did, fearful of losing him… Trust me, I could never get a good night’s sleep. In fact, I started being myself only after I decided to separate from him. Today, I have none of those insecurities. I can’t tell you how happy I am! Knowing that you are responsible for all of this, I can’t help being fond of you,” she said, drawing Sujatha closer. The two women felt secure in the knowledge that they were masters of their own lives.
(To be Continued-)
ఓల్గా గా ప్రసిద్ధి పొందిన పోపూరి లలిత కుమారి ప్రముఖ తెలుగు రచయిత్రి. ఆంధ్రప్రదేశ్లోని రాజకీయ, సాహిత్యరంగపు చర్చలో స్త్రీవాద ధృక్పధాన్ని ప్రవేశపెట్టిన రచయితగా ఈమెను గుర్తిస్తారు స్త్రీవాద ఉద్యమానికి ప్రతీకగా నిలిచిన ఓల్గా, తనను తాను తెలుగులో గురజాడ అప్పారావు వ్రాసిన కన్యాశుల్కంతో ప్రారంభమైన అభ్యుదయ రచనా పరంపరలో భాగంగా కూడా భావించింది. నవంబర్ 27, 1950లో గుంటూరు జిల్లా చుండూరు మండలం యడ్లపల్లి గ్రామములో జన్మించారు. వీరి తల్లిదండ్రులు పోపూరి వెంకటసుబ్బారావు, వెంకటసుబ్బమ్మ. ఈమె ఆంధ్ర విశ్వవిద్యాలయంలో తెలుగు సాహిత్యం ఎం.ఎ. చేసిన తర్వాత తెనాలిలోని వి.ఎస్.ఆర్. కళాశాలలో తెలుగు అధ్యాపకురాలిగా పనిచేశారు. ఓల్గా కథలు, నవలలు, పద్యాలు మహిళా సాహిత్యములో ఎన్నదగినవి. చలం, కొడవటిగంటి కుటుంబరావు రచనల వల్ల ప్రభావితమై స్త్రీ చైతన్యము అంశముగా రచనలు చేసి తనకై ఒక ప్రత్యేక స్థానము సంపాదించింది. పత్రికలలో, సాహిత్యములో, అనువాదములలో మహిళా హక్కులపై వివాదాస్పద చర్చలు గావించింది. చలన చిత్ర రంగములో ‘ఉషా కిరణ్’ సంస్థకు కథా రచయిత్రిగా పనిచేసి మూడు చిత్రాలు నిర్మించి పురస్కారాలు పొందింది. ఈమె రాసిన స్వేచ్ఛ నవలని వివిధ భారతీయ భాషల్లోకి అనువదించడానికి నేషనల్ బుక్ ట్రస్టు స్వీకరించింది.1986 నుండి 1995 వరకు ఆమె ఉషా కిరణ్ మూవీస్ లో సీనియర్ కార్యవర్గ సభ్యురాలిగా పనిచేసారు. 1991 నుండి 1997 వరకు అస్మిత రిసోర్స్ సెంటర్ ఫర్ విమెన్ కు అధ్యక్షురాలిగా పనిచేసారు. ఆమె ప్రస్తుతం అస్మితలో జనరల్ సెక్రటరీగా పనిచేస్తున్నారు.