” Loppudu ra amma, please come in”  I welcomed the young woman who entered our house with some fruits , offered a seat, shouted for Ammalu as if I needed urgently a few Vayugulika pills to relieve the bronchial congestion. After fielding that standard question”Ethanni enthukkamma- why all these ? ” I accepted the fruits from her, wondering who she was and why she had come with gifts to meet me .” Panthalu garu ! ” She addressed me without occupying the seat I offered, stood in a corner and wanted me to suggest an auspicious day for performing Sathyanarayana vratham.Now the cat is out of the bag. My kadukkan or karnabharanam has mislead this poor woman to believe that I am panthalu or priest !I could have straight away told her that I am not a panthalu and if she wants, she can take back her fruits and consult some one else. But my damn ego stood in the way. Ok, I can manage for the time being if I could suggest a date for her pooja but I do not know how to look for that and moreover I do not have a panchangaham in my house. The Mathrubhoomi calender satisfies Ammalu’s needs and for me all days are auspicious !“Ramma, ekkada unnavu? Where do you stay ? ” Ammalu slowly came out of the kitchen as if she came on her own and not responding to my call.The visitor explained that she had come recently to our housing- colony and lives a few houses away. She mentioned the name of her house owner.

“That house is good” I commented, “but your house owner is a rascal”

“Athanu na suttalandi -he is my relative” She clarified.

”Oh, then the tenet who lived there earlier was a rascal “

‘Panthalugaru, oka muhoortham chepthara ? ” She was back with her pet question .

Ammalu was wondering what ‘muhoortham’ I was capable of suggesting but managed to divert the topic by her standard question to any stranger,” how many children you have and how old are they, ponne ?”

I have two small kids, six and four; we have come from Khammam “

” Mimmalu choosthe na nanagaru yathosthunthi. You reminds me of my  father ” Sharada (that is her name )said, turning towards me.”

” Is he too, bald like me, with a squint eye, protruding nose and perverted teeth ? “

” No, he was handsome “

” So as I was, he too was handsome earlier but has become like me now ?”

“No, Panthalugaru, He is no more now”

” Ada paavame-poor thing” Ammalu’s face became pale . I too felt sorry for  Sharada. ”Sorry to hear that “

When we all returned to our normal mood, I asked her how did I remind her of her father.

” Like you, he used to beat his fingers in air as if he was playing a  mridangam, while walking the street”

“Might be a music lover, like me “‘

“No, he had some nervous problems “

“But I have no such problems”

“He himself is a problem ” Ammalu intervened unnecessarily.” Almost every young woman who sees him for the first time mentions that he reminds her of her father; but no one has said that I reminds her of her mother”

” Every woman calling me ‘father’ is not your problem; it is mine “

“But I was happy when Ponni patty called you ‘ patta-grand father’ and you flared up “

“What did uncle do aunty ?” Now sharada has become closer to us and stopped calling me ‘panthalu’

.” Patty change your glasses” He  admonished her and she replied that her eyeglasses were new ,obtained as per a latest prescription and that was why she could see better.

” And what did uncle say? ” Sharada inquired.

“Uncle said, ‘ then it is high time you change your eye specialist ‘

“Then?”

Patty asked, ‘ Why are you boiling over, if I call you patta ? Are you not a patta, grand father of four  grand children ?’

”Yes, I am “,  Uncle replied, ” but you are not  one among them “

Next day Sharada  came again and spent an hour with us, when we could learn more about her.

She was the pet child of her parents receiving unalloyed affection and overnight, became an orphan, when her parents died in an accident. Her father’s sister who was more interested in the fortune left behind than in the child, brought her up and married her to her own son. Sharada could not complete her high school education and neither her husband nor her in-laws bothered about it . They subjugated her in every respect, ill treated her and even after two kids were born her agony continues. She is not allowed to dress well,  go out on her own or mingle with the neighbors.

“Probably because we grew under the same roof and played together, he finds no charm in me and treats me not more than as a servant to satisfy his needs ” she lamented. My husband doesn’t utter a single word supporting me, when my in-laws scold me “” Sharada, unless you pocket your husband, you have no moksham, relief from your deplorable present life ” I advised her, as an experienced husband.

“I know uncle and that is why I want to perform sathynarayana vratham but you are not suggesting a date “

”You cannot do that vradham alone and from what I understand from you, your husband may not sit along with you and do the pooja. Moreover, the God does not interfere in family  matters. He unites the couple and leave the field to them to play their roll “

“Am I not playing my roll ?”  She asked .

”I am afraid, you are not ” I replied, ” sex, food and dress are the three tools, in that order, a wife has, to attract her husband towards her and keep him within her possession. There is a vacuum somewhere in your behavior. And once your husband becomes yours, you have won over his parents. In fact, you have won over the world “

” Pavi brahmana! ” Ammalu chided me. ‘Koshanthukku ithuva chollikkuduppa – Is this what you advice to this innocent girl?”

”What else, Ammalu, look at her dress, look at her hairs. And touch your heart with your right hand and tell me, are those not the tools or mantras used by you to subjugate me all these fifty and odd years? “

She had no answer but her silent smile revealed her agreement  She moved away from the scene under some pretext.

“There was no news form Sharada for a full fortnight. “She is angry with your nonsense ” Ammalu commented. “I would like to go and see her but she has given strict instruction not to enter her house as her in-laws do not like any visitors for her”

” I will pass through her gate ” I suggested, “and shall take care not to beat in the air with my fingers “

One day Sharada did come, beaming with happiness and the glad news that her husband was promoted in his works and ” what is more important is that he shared that news with me. This is the first time in our married life that he, on his own, told me something about his personal and official matter”

“And he comes home in time in the evenings and gives you some cash for your personal needs ? And your in laws are treating you much better ? ” I inquired though I was sure of her answer.

“Yes uncle, in our ten years married life, yesterday was the first day when he brought some flowers for me ” The poor girl showed proudly the mullapoomala adorning her head”

I could not control my tears. She continued, ” my in laws are treating me like their own daughter, though for me, you are not only a father but mother too”

‘Ammalu, paathaya ?’ now  it is my turn to chide my wife and clear the tear drops from her eyes.

“Tomorrow is the auspicious day for Sathynarayan vratham, Sharada ” I told her without looking at the panchangam but with all the seriousness of a panthalu and sincerity of a father.

Love and regards,
sperinkulam

” Give a handful from your plenty to those deserving”
                                    



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