-Padmavathi Neelamraju

          Smiles with tears…tears with smiles. Life goes on its own terms and conditions. We jump to conclusions with lots of aspirations, but time never assures us what will be.

          After a few months of working in HCM, my services were terminated. I was again in search of a job.  I thought, “My income will help my parents to meet some of our family expenses,”  but it wouldn’t be acceptable to my siblings because a girl’s income is like garnish on a curry. But for me, it is an identity. After a month’s gap, I found a guest faculty vacancy at SR College in our hometown. One might wonder why I was looking for jobs only in my hometown.

          One day, after my MA results, my dad told me, “Hope you try to find a teacher’s post” “Yes, Nanna!” I said confidently.

          “Okay then listen Prerna…don’t look for a job outside our town…you have to find it here only…If I allow you to go out and do a job like a boy… of course it’s good! But I cannot tolerate people talking if you start residing alone in another town. What will our relatives think?”

          “I don’t care Nanna!”

          “But I care… that’s it!” He commanded. I obliged as there was no option left for me.

          I felt great about the SR College offer. When I joined, I was allotted an evening shift. A month of work went by successfully, teaching degree college students. I was appreciated, sometimes pointed out, and even teased sometimes. Yet I was quiet, proud of myself. The sound of students calling me “Madam!” was a musical feast for my ears!

          That was a quiet, cloudy day. I was taking my last period for first-year Commerce students. I was teaching ‘Clauses’, a grammar chapter. I was pleased to see all my students in the class so silent and listening attentively.

          I said, “Whenever I do clauses, I have an amusing thought. I think of comparing these clauses with three powerful deities, here I feel like sharing with you; I hope you all enjoy.”

          Seeing all nodded with a willing smile, I began. 

          Simple sentence:  Goddess Saraswati: “Kar madhye sarswati”, knowledge is a very profound need in everybody’s life. 

          Complex sentences: Goddess Lakshmi: “Karagre vasathe Lakshmi ”, a commanding element, must in life.

          Compound sentence: Goddess Gauri:  “Karamule sthithe gauri, prabhate kara darshanam”, the basic energy required all through our life.

          Hence, every human in this world needs these three components. Expressing our thoughts in different ways as we choose shows our minds how complicated, stable or simple we are. I repeated the whole verse.

          “Karagre vasate Lakshmi

          Kar madhye Sarswati

          Karamule sthithe Gauri – Prabhate kara darshanam”

          Sometimes, I feel these three cosmic energies are inbuilt energies in every human being, but how and when they come out only depends on the opportunity one gets. The teaching of that grammar chapter went on for a while, above the duration of the period.                  


          I saw Koteshwara Rao, an office clerk, standing in the corridor, a little bit restless about going home. The bell rang. There was a cold breeze outside. It was about to rain anytime.

          Immediately, students rushed to the cycle stand and disappeared within minutes.

          “Prerna madam! I am waiting for you,” Koteshwara Rao called. “You are doing very well madam, if you are willing, I will send my two children to you for tuition.”

          I smiled. Then he handed me an envelope which had some 1000 rupees and a letter.

          I looked at him puzzled.     

          I opened it. It was a “Termination Letter”. “My timetable had been adjusted with the regular faculty,” he said.

          “Don’t worry madam, you have a good future.”

          I know what future there is…Suddenly, I felt something stuck in my throat. I couldn’t speak. I left the college grounds walking back home. The roads were empty. Air tightened its lips. Some distant clouds thundered. I didn’t want to show my tears. It started raining and became severe. I got completely wet. The outside and inside of myself were the same. My tears rolled down my cheeks, joining the big raindrops. I reached home. The rain had stopped. It was not a serious thing for anyone at home. I stayed silent.

          It was the beginning – the first experience of losing. I recollected the lines from the poem The Ball, a solace to my grief of being unemployed once again.

He is learning, well behind his desperate eyes,

The epistemology of loss, how to stand up

Knowing what every man must one day know

And most know many days, how to stand up. (John Berryman)


          The other day, Akkamma, our housemaid, came late. She had bruises on her arms and back, and her cheeks were severely swollen. My mother asked, “Akkamma! Beaten again?” Subbadu, her husband, beat her usually twice a week, surely for any silly reason he could find.

          I was washing clothes sitting beside her, near the well. I asked her, “Akkamma, don’t you get angry?”

          “No thalli (dear)”, she lovingly said.

          “How long will you bear his beatings like this?”

          Slowly, she opened up. “I do get angry, and I want to beat him back…but I can’t.”


          “I am his wife. I have to excuse him, if not, who will look after him?” I pitied her. I said, “See Akkamma! You and your husband both are equally working.  In fact, you are working more hours than he works.Besides, you are earning more and supporting the whole family irrespective of his income. He does not bother, a drunkard, fifty percent of his income he spends on his liquor. Why don’t you retort to him at least once! It is you to save your family …including Subbadu!” She listened to me sincerely.

          After a few days, she hurriedly came to our house in the evening, calling for me, “Thalli…thalli!” My mom and I rushed to the backyard.

          She spoke loudly, wheezing and crying, “I beat Subbadu blue and black!”

          Meanwhile, my mom brought a glass of water for her.

          I wondered if Akkamma had beaten her husband in return, a revolt of an innocent lady, breaking the chains!

          “What happened?” surprisingly I asked.

          “You know thalli! I want my Kamala, my only loving child, to join high school. She is supposed to go to sixth kalas. But her ayya (father) objected. He forcibly took her to somebody’s house to look after their infant and help that lady in the household. I went to their house and brought back Kamala. He was angry because he had taken some amount as an advance from that lady. So he threatened to beat our little one.”

          “I strongly objected to what he did…anyway, he is always in a drunken state, so he started beating me and pushed my kid to a corner…later pulled us out of the hut and shouted abuses.

          I couldn’t control or tolerate it anymore! Picked up a stick and started beating him…he quickly surrendered as he lost control over himself and fell down. He still was shouting loudly, uttering nastily thitlu (abusive words). But, I came running to you.”

          “This is my Kamala”, she said, showing the little girl who had come running after her.

          My mom said, “Okay, okay! Calm down. Have some water. You sit here for some time, don’t go home. We will see. I will talk to him.” I have brought a glass of water again and a biscuit packet. I gave that packet to Kamala. Hurriedly, she opened the packet and put one into her mother’s mouth.  

          I saw the eleven-year-old girl looking terrified, and a question was in her eyes: “Why?”

          I saw Akkamma murmuring and beating her thigh with her fist restlessly as Maha Kali burning with anger on murkh rakshas. When it comes to the matter of her child, she is a fighter. She is a protector. She was ready to face any extent of hardship but could not accept damage to her daughter’s dreams. She has been very stable for a long time, like goddess Saraswati, and can command her own rights, as goddess Gauri did, if needed.

          In one moment of the day, I experienced a fact. Struggle is a common phenomenon. Whether it is I or Akkamma, for both of us, the beginning is a struggle. ‘When does it end? Is a big question?’

          I smiled with tears in my eyes. I saw Akkamma drinking tea, her eyes full of tears but a mild smile on her face.


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