Mahashweta, p.14Sudha Murty
‘Do you really think we should marry and have children so that we have someone to look after us in our old age? That is not right. Others have their own lives to lead, too.’
‘Anu, is there nothing I can say to persuade you to change your decision?’
‘Vasant, I will never forget your friendship or your affection. That you would want to marry me after knowing about my disease and background shows your kind-heartedness. But I don’t want that sort of a life. You should marry someone like you, with a simple and compassionate heart, preferably a doctor, who can also help you in your work. Please remember that whenever you come to Bombay, this Mahashweta will always welcome you as a friend and her house will be open to you. We have become good friends. Let us remain so, and not complicate our relationship by getting married.’
Tears welled up in Anupama’s eyes. She went inside and fetched a small packet which she gave to Vasant.
‘What is this?’ he asked.
‘It is a sweater that I have knitted for you. Please wear it during the cold weather. Don’t worry about me. Satya will be here and he will take care of me. I wish you all the best in your work.’
Anupama smiled and Vasant tried hard to hide his unhappiness. Oh God! If only I had known her before her husband ruined her life, I would not have lost this priceless jewel!
They were interrupted by a knock on the door. Anupama’s student Vinuta stood at the threshold. She said, ‘Can I come in, Ma’am?’
‘Of course, Vinita.’
‘Ma’am, we have chosen a play for our college day.’
‘Ma’am, it seems you were the heroine of that play in your college days and everyone would love to see you in that role once again. Do you remember?’
‘How can I forget Mahashweta?’
Anupama started reciting the lines which had been engraved in her mind. . .
‘Like Rohini to Chandra, like Lakshmi to Narayana, am I to him. Just as the creeper depends on a tree, I depend on him. I cannot live without him, and for his sake, I am ready to renounce everything. Let society say anything it wishes. I do not care. . .’
This time Vinuta would play the lead role, and she would be directed by the real Mahashweta. Vasant, like Pundarika, would be separated from Mahashweta. . .but in this case, it would be forever.
As they say, life imitates art.
Anupama smiled. Only Vasant could understand the meaning of that smile.
As a trustee of the Infosys Foundation I receive many letters seeking financial help. The most difficult part is to distinguish between genuine pleas and dubious ones.
One morning, as I was going through the letters,my secretary told me, ‘Ma’am, there is a wedding invitation card with a personal note attached to it. Will you be attending?’
At first I thought it was an invitation from one of my students, but when I read the card, I was unable to remember either of the persons getting married. The note attached to the card said, Madam, if you do not attend our marriage, we will consider it unfortunate.
I had not been able to place either the girl or boy by the date of the wedding, but decided to attend out of curiosity. As I made my way to the other end of the city through heavy rains, I felt, ‘Is it worth attending some unknown person’s wedding?’
It was a typical middle-class wedding with a stage decorated liberally with flowers. Film music, which nobody was listening to, was blaring over the speakers, while the children played hide-and-seek in the hall. Women bustled about wearing Bangalore silk saris and Mysore crepes.
I looked at the couple standing on the dais. I was still not able to remember either of them. Standing in the middle of the crowd, without knowing anybody, I did not know what to do.
Just then, an elderly person approached me and asked me politely, ‘Do you want to meet the couple and greet them?’
I followed him to the dais, introduced myself and wished the couple a happy married life. They seemed very happy. The groom asked the elderly man to look after me. The man took me to the dining hall and brought me something to eat. Enough is enough, I thought to myself. I can’t eat without knowing who these people are.
As though he sensed my doubts, the elderly gentleman smiled and said, ‘Madam, I am the groom’s father. My son fell in love with Malati, the bride, and we arranged the wedding., Malati contracted leukoderma after the engagement, and as a result my son backed out of the marriage. We were all very sad. I asked him what he would have done if Malati had got leukoderma after they got married, but he would not listen. Her family was worried about her future. There was so much unpleasantness in the family. To escape from the tension at home, my son began to visit the library often. After about a month, he told me that he was ready to marry Malati. We were all pleasantly surprised and were truly happy.’ I still did not have an answer to my question. How on earth was I involved in this? Soon, the groom’s father provided the answer.
‘Madam, later we came to know that he read your novel, Mahashweta,’ he said. ‘The plight of your heroine touched him deeply. He took a month and decided he did not want to be like the man in your novel who shed his responsibilities only to regret it later. Your novel changed his thinking.’
I finally put the pieces together.
The groom’s father, then, brought a packet to me and insisted that I accept the gift. When I hesitated, he pressed it into my hands and said, ‘Malati has purchased this sari for you. She will be very happy if you accept it.’
The rain grew heavier and water splashed into the hall. Raindrops were falling on my face, and my silk sari was getting wet. But nothing mattered. I was delighted that Malati and her husband had made me part of their celebrations. Never in my wildest dreams had I thought that an ordinary person like me would change somebody’s life.
Whenever I wear that sari, I remember Malati’s shining face as it was that day and the cover of Mahashweta. This is the most precious sari I own.
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First published by EastWest Books (Madras) Pvt. Ltd 2005
Published by Penguin Books India 2007
Copyright © Sudha Murty 2005, 2007
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This digital edition published in 2013.
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Sudha Murty, Mahashweta
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