Sudarsanam finished the lesson for the day and the girls left. He was getting ready to leave. Usually Padmini would show up at this time every day to inquire how the teaching was going.
She walked in so softly into the room that Sudarsanam could not hear her footsteps. But the aroma that accompanied her floating in the air announced her arrival.
“Vasantha studied hard last night. You have asked her questions I suppose. Did she answer?”
“She has answered well. Vasantha is smart.”
The conversation started the same way as always and that bothered Sudarsanam. If she did not raise the question, he would have to raise it himself. And that would not be pleasant experience. … but …
“She is devoted to you. … We have hired two teachers before. She didn’t care for them at all.”
Sudarsanam stood there, watching without batting an eyelid—her snow white saree, the blouse peeking slyly through that sheer saree, behind that … the gold chain resting in the delicate glimmer of her neck and sleeping happily in the hills and valleys underneath, … The sight of that chain was stirring several thought in him forcefully.
“I’m leaving,” he said feebly. “Already? Stay for a few minutes …” – he imagined her to be saying. … But …
“Alright,” said Padmini.
Sudarsanam set out, walking weakly, and chewing himself out. He was a coward; he could not open his mouth to ask what was his and what was rightfully his.
Was he afraid of Padmini?
Yes and no… Let it be. Would it be better if he broached the topic with her father? It felt like a worse mistake. In this matter, Padmini was totally responsible. …She was not a little girl. It got so delayed for so long only because of him. … Tomorrow … he must pick up the courage. … Otherwise …
Sudarsanam returned to him room listlessly and lay down on the cot. The room was full of dust and cluttered with little things all over. But those things were not bothering him now. There was only one solution for all this and it was in Padmini’s hands. When she extends her beautiful soft hands toward him and … His thought would stop there.
His innards were howling. But his current financial position rendered him incapable of going to the hotel to eat. Sudarsanam got up, went to the tea stall across from his room, had some tea and pakora and returned to his cot to lie down.
He could not sleep.
He could see the moonrise in its fullness through the hole in the wall. As he opened his eyes, he was reminded of the lotus and black tulips, which reminded him of Padmini.
He could not bear this pain. His life would be unbearable if he could not ask Padmini tomorrow. What if she got angry and the negotiation fails?
No matter what, he could not waste that one wish he was banking on. We’ll see if it comes to that, he told himself. And there was no indication that Padmini could act so inhuman.
The daybreak followed his thought process –sunrise… Padmini …
Sudarsanam had made up his mind that he would finalize the matter once for all on that day.
Sudarsanam managed to finish the lesson and sent Vasantha away. The next minute, Padmini came into the room.
He picked up the courage, told himself dhairye sahase Lakshmi [Fortune follows courage] and said faintly, and reminding himself of his suffering the night before, “I was thinking of asking you one thing …”
“What is it?” asked Padmini lightly.
Sudarsanam said boldly and seriously, “I think you have forgotten about the pay for this month. I thought I should remind you.”
“Oh, no. Father had given it to me two days back. My poor memory!” Padmini said, went into the other room quickly.
Sudarsanam was ecstatic. It was like he had conquered the world, and experienced the taste of divine bliss. His bravery was not wasted.
(The Telugu original, dhairye sahase Lakshmi, was published in the early 1950s.
Translated by Nidadavolu Malathi and published on thulika.net, October 2007)