Political Stories by Volga

Political Stories-12

What is to be done? (Part – 5)

     Santha had not seen Sobha since that day, nor had she received a letter from her. A couple of letters that she had written to her received no response.

     She concluded that Sobha had decided to terminate their friendship. Now that she was going to see her again, would their friendship blossom again? Santha wondered. What does Sobha look like now? She has two sons. She is probably quite happy as a wife and as a mother. She certainly knows how to be happy and satisfied with what she has. Certainly not a worrywart like me, she smiled.

     But Santha had done well, too. She studied as far as she wished, obtained the degrees that she wanted to, and found a good job. She even gave up Ramkumar for the sake of her studies. The memories brought a smile on to her lips. Inspite of the good impressions she had had of him, Ramkumar turned out to be just another man: he had asked her to quit her studies. He must have had some guts to ask her quit her studies! How could he think that she would quit? Give up the opportunity she had? Santha reminisced about the day that she had broken off with Ramkumar. He could not get admission into M.Sc, so he did BEd., and found a job as a teacher in Guntur itself. He wanted Santha also to give up studies after M.Sc., find a job in the same place and marry him. But she wanted to do research. When he found out that she had been planning to write a test for admission to graduate schools in the US, his attitude toward her changed. That day she was in a good mood when she went to see him after taking the test. He didn’t even smile at her.

     “Guess what I brought you from Hyderabad?” she asked enthusiastically.

     “It doesn’t matter, I am not going to take it whatever it is,” he said quite seriously.

    Santha understood what the problem was. “May be we should talk about it clearly,” she said equally earnestly.

     “Yes, that is what I am saying. I don’t like your going for studies in the States. If you go, we will not get married.?

     Santha remained silent.

     “Is going to America more important for you than me? Is a degree more important for you than our life together? Can’t you drop it for my sake?” He asked emotionally.

     “If that is what you want, I don’t see how you are different.

     How is our relationship different?”

     What do you mean? You think I am so ordinary? Worthless?”

    If you impose conditions on our love and marriage, I don’t see how you are special? If you stand in the way of my progress, does that say you love me? You are afraid of my going to America. You are afraid of my getting ahead of you. An inferiority complex is your problem. You are not sure what I might do in the States; you don’t have faith in me. You are worried I might reject you after I come back.

     That is what is bothering you. Is there anything like love left between us if this is your attitude?”

     “What is wrong in my thinking about all those possibili-ties? Is it so unnatural?” Ramkumar asked angrily.

     “No, nothing, not really. There is a possibility every one of your suspicions will come true. I will get ahead of you in education. Then we may not treat each other as equals. I might look down upon you. So what? Aren’t men looking down upon women today?

     “I will behave the way I want in America. Do you remember we were just friends when I first came to your room to find out how it feels to be kissed. Maybe I would feel like doing that with someone there. In fact I will. To tell you the truth if I find someone there better than you I might say goodbye to you.

     Tell me why I shouldn’t? Tell me?

     “You think you can impose conditions on our love? No marriage if I go to America? Ok, how about this? I have a condition. I will marry you only if you can go to America and come back. What do you say?” She laughed rebuking him.

     You have gone crazy” Ramkumar said gritting his teeth. «yes, Thave, but that’s nothing new for me. I go crazy occasionally whenever I see men who think they can make women dance to their tunes, and when I see women who become slaves to men out of fear. In fact, I regret that you haven’t known about my craziness so far. Too bad I didn’t know that you didn’t know.”

     Santha rose from her chair and put on her slippers when Ramkumar grabbed her by the hand.

     Santha, please don’t be angry. Slow down and think calmly, practically. You will understand if you mull over things slowly and calmly.”

     Slowly, calmly, practically – I hate those words. There is nothing for me to think about. Don’t you know how I am struggling at home? My parents and my brother are doing everything they can to stop me from going to States. Instead of standing by me and giving me a hand, you are creating a new problem for me. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? Don’t you feel wretched asking me not to grow taller than you?’ Chi. I am disgusted with you, Santha darted out of the room.

     After all these years, the recollection of Ramkumar’s words still riled up Santha. Did he really think she would give up her studies for the sake of marriage? He had underestimated her badly. The memory of him rankled her.

     She had done well, studied as much as she had desired, and found an interesting job.

     Yet, there was something wanting, something lacking. Why?

     What else did she need?

     Santha got out of bed and walked around the house agitated and disturbed.

     This lifestyle was of her own choosing. She had a house of her own; nobody but her had a say in what happened in her house, and she didn’t bow her head to any man. Yet, there was some dissatisfaction… some turbulence.. …loneliness.

     Was it marriage and children that she wanted?

     Not really. Even after serious reflection, she was not convinced that that was what she wanted. She didn’t have the patience or the desire to give birth to and raise children.

     But work, on its own, did not seem to be adequate. She needed something more. She needed to be engaged with more people. Not more of the same, but something different.

     Sobha probably didn’t have this anxiety, thought Santha.

     She never had. Tomorrow she would look happy and contented greeting her. She would probably recollect our last meeting and say, “Look at my life! It is beautiful. My husband is a good man, can’t live a moment without me, just wouldn’t leave me alone when he is home. Would you guess how bright my kids are! I can’t imagine being without them and they won’t leave me alone for a moment either.” Santha would probably put on a lifeless smile when Sobha told her about her life. What else could she do? Lie about her own life? “I have a great job, prestigious and satisfying.

     1 am the boss in my house, quite happy, nothing that is want-ing..

  ” How would that sound? Should she hide dissatisfaction with her life, the weariness, the loneliness… but she had never pretended or lied to Sobha. Nor had Sobha kept things from her. Both had been nothing but honest with each other. Even when what they had to say was unpalat-able, they were truthful to each other. Yes, Santha had developed superficial friendships and learned to engage in pleasing conversations, but she had never done that with Sobha. Would she have to do that now with her, too? Was there no way out of seeing Sobha tomorrow?

     Santha was both anxious and apprehensive about meeting Sobha the next morning.

     About ten the next morning, Mohan came by to pick up Santha. As they arrived at his place, Soba greeted them at the front gate. “How are you, Santha,” Soba greeted her, grabbing her hand affectionately. “Look at you!” Santha said, staring at her head to toe.

     Sobha has changed a lot. She has put on weight, lost some color, and developed dark circles around her eyes. How odd her smile has become! Looks like it is attached to her lips, thought Santha. Santha walked into the house wondering about Sobha.

     “Please take a seat,” Mohan groveled, and rushed Sobha to offer coffee to Santha. Even as Santha was becoming familiar with the room, Soba appeared with two cups of coffee, offered them to Santha and Mohan and stood aside holding a tray in her hands.

     “How about you?” Santha asked.

     “just had some,” Sobha replied, again with the same put-on smile.

     “We also had some at my place just before leaving, barely fifteen minutes ago?”

     That’s okay. I am not used to drinking many cups of cot fee.”

     “Why don’t you also sit down?”

     “I will, but right now I have paayasam on the stove. Let me attend to it, otherwise it will get burnt. Why don’t you both talk for a while, I will be done in a half hour,” Sobha said. as she collected the coffee cups and went into the kitchen.

     “She can never do anything quickly, has never been efficient. Finish your cooking by ten, so you can chit chat with your friend? I told her last night itself. She woke up at five this morning, but she isn’t done yet. I was sure she wouldn’t be done before one….

     Mohan reeled off. Santha got up and went into the kitchen.

     Santha ground cardamom seeds and mixed the powder in paayasam. “What is going on? Why do we need this paayasam and stuff now?” she asked.

     “It’s for you. Ever since he found out that you are my friend and agreed to come to our house, he has been going hay-wire. Leave the paayasam alone, look at these!” She took lids off vessels and showed biryani, chicken curry, fried shrimp, and other vegetable curries. “You are my husband’s boss now, right?” she laughed.

     “So you made all of these now?”

     “Of course. You think I will serve you stale food?”

     “Come on, Sobha, you should have told him, We don’t need all these things. Just scold her, and throw her out.”

     “Sorry, Santha, you still remember that?”

     “Did you forget?”

     How can I? Particularly since everything you said came true.”

     Santha’s jaw dropped. She couldn’t think of what to say.

     “That’s okay. We will talk later. Now that you are a big of-ficer, and on top of that, my husband’s boss, I have to make a grand preparation for you! What choice do I have! Come on, go into the hall and chat with my husband, we’ll talk after lunch.” Soba walked her out of the kitchen.

     Santha sat there patiently listening to Mohan and wishing Sobha would soon call out for lunch. Mohan recounted how hard he had been working and how lazy his colleagues were.

     Sobha arranged the table for two and invited Santha and Mohan to eat. “Why don’t we all eat together?” Santha asked.

     “If we all sit down, who will serve? That won’t be respectful to you,” Mohan said

     “Well then, we both will eat, why don’t you serve us?” Santha asked him.

     Mohan laughed loudly as if Santha was joking, and sat down at the table.

     Santha stood up. “OK, you eat first, we both will eat later.”

     “Oh no, why did you get up? OK, Sobha, why don’t you also join us?”

     Santha didn’t feel like eating with him. She couldn’t believe he treated Sobha like that! How can Sobha love and respect a brute like this, she wondered.

     “No, you eat first, we both will eat together later,” Santha said and went into the hall.

     Not sure what Santa’s actions meant, Mohan scolded Sobha, ‘You have no sense at all Why did you stand there like an idiot? Couldn’t you sit down quickly when I asked you to?” and began to eat fast.

     Later Sobha and Santha had a leisurely meal. Santha ate a bellyful, complimenting Soba on her cooking. While they ate, Mohan sauntered around the room, as if worried that Soba might err in treating Santha with the respect due to her.

     After lunch, Sobha and Santha went into the bedroom.


(To be Continued-)


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