Political Stories by Volga

Political Stories-10


         No longer able to put up with the nagging headache, Revathi closed the file and looked at the wall clock. It was three. In winter, time stops moving at about three. “It will be many hours before five,” quipped Bharathi, typing in the next seat. Revathi responded with a smile. “That’s why I am thinking of taking a leave for the rest of the day. My headache is killing me,” she said. Why do you want to waste a leave for just two hours? Just ask for permission to leave early.” But Revathi wrote a leave letter ignoring a surprised


         “It is better to take a leave if you can. Otherwise, if you ask for permission even once a year the old guy will grumble, These women have nothing but home on their minds. They never think of work in the office. It is always taking permission and rushing home? ” said Rama, announcing her support in favor of the leave application.

         Revathi smiled at the office: approva, tiled her leave as There wouldn’t be many people at bus stop at this time of the day and the buses ran nearly empty. Thinking of easily finding a seat in the bus. revathi reflexively hit a quick stride. Surprised at finding Chandrika at the bus stop, she looked at her watch one more time. Why was she here at this time?

         “Chandrika, you didn’t go to office today?”

         Chandrika looked up and was startled at seeing Revathi.

         Revathi was surprised looking at Chandrika’s wilted face, red eyes, and her lost-in-thought appearance.

         A bus arrived then at the stop, but Revathi was reluctant to depart leaving Chandrika there. “Chandrika, there won’t be many buses at this time going towards your place. Why don’t you come to my place for a while?”

         Chandrika looked at her hesitantly and appeared confused.

         “Don’t worry. You can go home by evening,” she grabbed Chandrika’s hand and they rushed toward the bus. The bus was nearly empty. Once they were seated and the bus pulled away from the station, Revathi looked at Chandrika atten-tively. She was surprised that Chandrika didn’t say anything, didn’t refuse to come with her, and didn’t writhe her hand out of her grip. “Are you feeling alright?” she asked.

         Chandrika nodded yes, and kept looking out the window.

         Revathi understood that she did not feel like talking.

         What could have happened? Why was she so sad? Did she have an argument with Ravi? Hope they didn’t have a fight!

         Was she actually coming to see me? Maybe she would have come home even without my asking her? Revathi was puzzled.

         Under normal circumstances she couldn’t have imagined Chandrika coming to see her.

         Chandrika had agreed to marry Ravi only after he agreed hat they would live in a house of their own, away from his mother. Even after the wedding, she hadn’t warmed to Revathi. They had found a house within two months of the wedding and moved out. Even during the short time they had all lived together following the wedding, the couple was hardly home; most of the time was spent visiting with Chandrika’s parents and friends and on their honevmoon.

         Once they started living in their own house, Chandrika never gave Revathi an opportunity to interfere with the affairs of her household. She never asked her for any help. Though it wasn’t easy to be working outside the home and taking care of the family, she kept her mother-in-law at bay. Revathis friends and relatives were surprised at this distance. Some couldn’t resist telling Revathi, “You have just one son. Does it make any sense for him to be living separately in the same town? At least if they lived with you for a couple of years and couldn’t get along, we could understand. But going away immediately after marriage? This is unheard of! Shall we talk to Ravi and drill some sense into his head?”

         Revathi discouraged such attempts and never complained about Ravi or Chandrika. “Living separately right from the beginning is better than quarreling for two years and then separating. This way we don’t have a reason to hate each other,” she would say supporting her son’s decision. Four

         years had passed. During that time the distance between Revathi and Chandrika neither decreased nor increase Revathi visited them occasionally on Sunday evenings and they came to see her once in a while. With the exception of the few weeks when Chandrika was away at her parents home for the delivery of her daughter, Ravi never stayed with his mother. Somehow Chandrika had been raising their son on her own without seeking any help from Revath; 

         After all of that it was surprising, though pleasant, that Chandrika was coming on her own today to see her. Revathi was quite eager to find out what was the matter.

         “Why did you start at this time of the day? How about the office?” She asked loudly in order to be heard over the din of the bus.

         “I took the day off to go to Sarat’s school. I was just coming back from there.”

         Chandrika’s reply drained the color from Revathi’s face.

         So she wasn’t really coming to see her. Sarat’s school was close to Revathi’s office. Chandrika must have gone there to pay the school fee. She would have gone home from there if Revathi didn’t drag her along. It was still surprising that she readily agreed to come home with her. She could have easily said she would come another time. In any case, it is good that she is coming, thought Revathi. Revathi stole a glance at Chandrika again. Chandrika’s sad countenance with her lower lip pressed down under her teeth suggested that something had gone wrong.

         Whenever Revathi visited Chandrika, she couldn’t help feel ing sorry for her. Chandrika could never come home from the office before seven in the evening. Arriving home tired she would put some rice in the cooker and go for a bath.

         For dinner they would eat rice with whatever curries were left over from the morning: Chandrika wouldn’t have the energy even to warm up the curties. Needless to say the cold curries would have no taste. What could poor Chandrika do? She usually woke up at seven in the morn-ing. Before going to the office at nine, she had to prepare breakfast, cook rice and make curries, all without any help.

         Maybe she hadn’t done any household work during her college days. Chandrika wasn’t very efficient at doing things.

         Butshe didn’t dislike work; it was just that she was slow and could only do one thing at a time. On days when Revathi visited her, Chandrika would be quite uncomfortable, convinced that her mother-in-law did not approve of her way of keeping her house, her way of cooking or serving, or her table manners. She would be on pins and needles until Revathi left. Revathi never understood why Chandrika was so uncomfortable in her presence. She had never said an ill word about her and never expected to be treated formally.

         On occasion she thought of helping Chandrika in tidying up the house, but feared that Chandrika might construe that as an attempt to correct her ways or to point out her deficiencies. When she was given coffee in a stained cup, she took it gladly with a smile. Chandrika would look at her anxiously as she cleaned the stains off the cup and put it away.

         Revathi and Chandrika got off the bus when it arrived at their stop and walked towards Revathi’s house. Chandrika walked wearily. She must be very tired, thought Revathi.

         She wouldn’t rest even when she wasn’t well and wouldn’t even think of taking time off from her office work. One day, soon after Sarat was born, Revathi had gone to see Chandrika at her office. She had knit a sweater for the baby but hadn’t had a chance to give it to Chandrika for many days. So she thought of giving it to her at the office Chandrika wasn’t in her seat when Revathi arrived, but emerged from the bathroom about ten minutes later, look. ing dejected. Carefully observing her, Revathi realized that Chandrika had gone into the bathroom to relieve her breasts of the milk swells. To express her sympathy, Revathi said very kindly, “You could have taken another month of leave”

         “It is very busy in the office. It wouldn’t be possible to ask for leave.”

         You could have at least taken some tablets to suppress milk,» she said, quite hesitantly. Assuming that the mother-in-law was being critical of her, Chandrika turned pale and defended herself uncomfortably, “I have been breastfeeding him morning and evening. In fact, he wouldn’t take a bottle at night.”

         The struggles of women trying to balance motherhood and office work weren’t new to Revathi. She just felt sorry that she wasn’t able to help her own daughter-in-law in these struggles.

         “I don’t want people thinking that women don’t do their job properly. For my part I will do my best to prove that we work well.” Revathi recalled Chandrika’s reply to Ravi some time ago when he accused her of taking over respon-sibilitiesat work which he thought was unnecessary Revathi was moved by her words. Ravi didn’t understand her. But Revathi couldn’t help but understand. She had been accused of the same many times. There was nothing more foolish than hiring a woman, she had heard. That in spite of the efforts she had made to avoid such comments Women went to work in offices while they were fully pregnant and while they were menstruating, In order to work they suppressed lactation in their breasts robbing their infants or relieving themselves of milk swells. In spite of that, a small error somewhere was enough to enlighten men into sermonizing that employing women was foolish. Revathi understood what Chandrika was going through and felt like hugging her, but restrained herself. Chandrika wouldn’t let her get close. A kind gaze or word from her would be uncomfortable for Chandrika. For some reason she felt threat-ened. Having been aware of it, Revathi had remained at some distance.


(To be Continued-)


Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.