Civility Humbled

[We have a lopsided view of the word sacrifice… particularly in matters of social reform where we do a favor to a victim but reap all the benefits for ourselves. Of all insufferable things in this world, the burden of indebtedness imposed on us by the benefactor is the worst. Rachamallu Ramachandra Reddy (Ra. Ra.) exposes the hypocrisy behind one such youth marrying a widow… from the point of view of the young widow.]


Civility Humbled

Ra. Ra.


For Sundaramma, it was like living a dream. She was initially hesitant to the marriage as it entailed the noise of band and clarinet, people moving busily all around and children making a hell of hullabaloo. That was how her first marriage was performed three years ago. But after she was assured last week that it would be a simple affair this time and going to be held in the most ultra-modern way amidst a select few invitees, she felt relieved. Widowed and turned up at her father’s place within one year of her first marriage, she felt embarrassed to appear like a bashful bride. For this very reason she vehemently opposed all proposals for second marriage. But the relentless advising of her two brothers and her own experiences during the two-year widowhood, compelled her to give in. The very thought that everyone attending the marriage was aware that she had led family life for one year before, haunted and overwhelmed her with fears. She was diffident to get into the attire of a blushing bride. The promise of a simple affair reassured her, and she heaved a sigh of relief.

To her great relief and delight the formal marriage ritual was over within ten minutes as promised. And the invitees, including the purohit and his assistants, did not exceed twenty in number. While she was feeling happy that the marriage was over without presenting her uneasy moments to feign bashfulness, speeches by the attendees had started suddenly. One by one, people got up, congratulated the groom, hailed his reformatory zeal, acclaimed his liberal views, and finally blessed the couple. For a moment, as she watched the proceedings before her, she felt the old, vain, and pompous practices were far better. An hour had passed already but only five people had completed their speech. She was not sure how long these speeches would last. She was feeling uncomfortable. She knew young men hesitated to marry a widow. But in the changed circumstances, it was no longer a taboo and for that reason widow-marriages were going on. But she was at a loss to understand what was so great about it to hail and acclaim a widow marriage?

In the meantime, another youth got up and argued that it was unfair to limit the accolades to Ramanatham, the groom, alone for the marriage and, Sundaramma, the bride, also deserved an equal share for her courage and boldness for agreeing to it. That was even weirder, she thought. She consented to the marriage with the sole intention of being happy for the rest of her life. What was so courageous about that decision? What was there to praise her for that? Did she make any sacrifices for others? … She was on tenterhooks till his speech was over. Fortunately, it was followed by a coffee break. And within twenty minutes after that she was at her husband’s home.

After dinner, Sundaramma was sitting on the bed in her bedroom. She started thinking about her husband and his nature. Sametime, the contrast between her last nuptials and the present one flashed in her memory. That night, her elder sister-in-law took meticulous care to adorn her, walked her upto the room and left. Her husband was waiting for her, then. With overwhelming shyness, excitement, and eagerness she entered the bedroom. While the teasing words of her sisters-in-law ducked her bashfulness, she also experienced a strange excitement for some exotic pleasure, and endless bliss she was going to experience. Today, neither there was anybody to decorate and tease her, nor did she have the earlier bashfulness and excitement. She entered the bedroom on her own and was waiting for her husband. She was aware of the nature of the pleasure she was going to experience. Hence, the kind of excitement was absent. That day, people threw her into the sea of pleasure without her concern. Today, she approached that sea… of her own volition and effort. This was a pleasure she snatched defying the fate. It was her birthright. There was nothing to be bashful about reclaiming her birth right, she reasoned. She felt that she was not obliged to anybody for regaining her right.

Her attention was back to where she had started: about the nature of her new husband Ramanatham. True, depending on his nature and conduct her future would unfold. If he were good, her life would be a bed of roses. What if he was not? But he looked like a gentleman. Surely, he was a gentleman. Otherwise, why would her brothers marry her to him? Who knows? There were umpteen cases she knew where the husband appeared gentle and amiable in the beginning but later started harassing and tormenting the wife for the rest of her life. How civil was he? Her life would be molded by his dignity and bearing. Sundaramma also remembered another contrasting thing. Strangely, not even once did she think about the nature of her husband then. She was fascinated and preoccupied with the pleasures she was going to experience. She built castles in the air about her future. She had, even for a fleeting second, thought about how her husband looked like but she did not entertain any thoughts about his nature and upbringing. That amused and surprised her now. She was ignorant, then, that the nature and civility of the husband determines the level of marital happiness for a woman. Today, she knew many things that she was ignorant of that day. It was the subject that was cropping up in her mind every moment since the alliance was settled. What kind of man was Ramanatham? How cultured was he?

She looked up as the door creaked. She got up when she found it was her husband coming in.

“Sundari! Hope you did not feel any inconvenience at the marriage?” Ramanatham enquired as he approached her. Sitting on the cot, he gently pressed her on the shoulders gesturing her to sit down beside him. Sitting beside him, Sundaramma answered, “No. Not at all!”

Ramanatham said fervently, “Do you know? I personally attended to every arrangement. You cannot imagine how much care I put in to make you comfortable!”

“Um!” said Sundaramma, with an air of despair.

“Not just that, Sundari! Believe me. I am ready to sacrifice the rest of my life for your comfort and pleasure. You don’t know how many relatives I had to desert for this marriage. Why? You will read for yourself in the newspapers the kind of sacrifices I made for you.”

Sundaramma, listening to him downcast till then, looked up into his face. She did not find any traces of conceit, but just a sense of content in his eyes. She asked him gently,

“Why should you make such sacrifices for me?”

Instead of asking that like a question, she wanted to present her opinion as a matter-of-fact statement. But as she tried to speak, her voice quivered, and it had turned out to be a question. She suddenly realized there was undue emotion behind her questioning. She was abashed and downcast again.

Ramanatham did not notice all this and replied immediately, “What do you speak, Sundaram? How come any human being remain silent without sacrificing life for their ideals? How could our society prosper if young women like you languish deprived of their basic pleasures and comforts of life?

Sundaramma remained silent. She was trying to gauge his mind. Why should this man worry to keep me happy? Doesn’t he have any desire to be happy himself?

Ramanatham did not allow her that luxury. Cupping her face within his hands and turning it towards him, he said, “Look at me, Sundaram! Can you imagine what your life would have been like in the absence of this marriage? If I had not made sacrifices, how could the darkness in your life be dispelled?”

She looked into his eyes once more and dropped her eyes in despair, smiling.

Ramanatham only noticed her smile but was in no mood to realize the import behind that. He said, “Look! Now your life is illuminated with moonlight. Can you imagine my ecstasy when my sacrifice reflects through your smile?”

Contentment and happiness reverberated in his voice.

Suddenly, Sundaramma felt her future was bleak. She wanted to cry aloud, “I cannot bear the burden of this sacrifice!”

She got up impromptu.

But suddenly, her helplessness flashed in front of her.

Drying her eyes, she knelt at the feet of Ramanatham. As her voice choked with emotion, she said, “Bless me the competence to deserve your sacrifice!”


Murthy Nauduri

1 comment

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  • What a story of Ra Ra garu.
    Nice translation Murthy garu.
    “Bless me the competence to deserve your sacrifice!”
    Last sentence added more weight to the story

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