8

For the next ten days, Geetha shivered each time the phone rang. Various emotions beset her each time the postman stopped at their door or passed on. She was too shy to ask about it but hoped Mamayya or Atta would call her parents and find out if there was any news. She was annoyed that the two families were acting like she had nothing to with it.
The following week, she received a letter from her friend, Saroja.
Dear Geetha,
We all are doing well here. Hope you are doing well. Life is moving along. Students don’t care about what the lecturers teach; and, the lecturers don’t care that the students don’t care. Days just pass by. I wish you were here. A few days back, I ran into your brother at a store. He said that you came for the weekend. Why did you not come to my home? Anyway, the real reason for this letter is, my marriage has been fixed, rather unexpectedly, on the 15th of this month. The groom is a distant relative. We used to play in our childhood days, says my mom. I don’t recall any of it. He came from America to get married. So, there is not much time. You must come.
Yours affectionately,
Saroja.
Geetha read that letter ten times; felt like Saroja was talking with her in person. Feelings of Joy, low spirits and inscrutable emptiness filled her for a few seconds. She told Atta about the news, and that she would like to go to the wedding. Atta agreed to send her and suggested that Jagadeesh would accompany her. But Jagadeesh refused. They had no choice but to let Geetha travel alone. Siva Rao put her on the bus, and assured her that Babayi would come to the bus stand in Vijayawada and pick her up.
Geetha nodded.
000

Saroja’s parents performed the wedding beautifully, despite lack of time for preparation. The groom’s parents and the guests were impressed and gave their heart-felt blessings to the newly-weds. “Your turn next,” one of the guests teased Geetha.
“I can find a groom for you in the States, if you like,” Saroja’s husband said, teasingly.
Saroja smiled. Geetha was embarrassed.
“Probably, it is not in my destiny. I think I will die without watching your wedding ceremony,” Bamma said, dabbing tears.
Saroja left for Chennai with her husband to spend a day with him before he left for the States.
Geetha was uneasy to stay at home and told her mother she was going back to Guntur the next morning. Kamakshi tried to persuade her to stay for one more day. Geetha insisted that she had to study for the upcoming exam and left.
Kanakam was very happy that Geetha returned earlier than expected. She thought Geetha was feeling at home in their house.
Geetha got very busy with her studies. She also kept her distance from Syam. Kanakam was perturbed for a few days but she got it right, understandably. She was even discussing family matters with her, now and then.
Geetha had grown up mentally. Now, for her, all the boys of Atta looked the same as Chitti.
000

After summer break, Geetha returned to Guntur to study B.A. During her absence, several things had happened. Mary married another Christian boy, she had met in her church, and went away to Calcutta. Satyam put a full-stop to her studies. Geetha also learned that Siva Rao suggested to Satyam’s mother that Satyam be given in marriage to Syam. It was still in the negotiation stage, but the chances of its happening looked good. The whole idea, however, was confusing to Geetha.
She went to see Satyam. She ran into Syam at the street corner. He smiled vaguely and avoided her.
Satyam was sitting on the porch and embroidering flowers on pillow covers. Geetha approached her from behind and blew on her neck. Satyam was startled, shouted ah as the needle pricked her finger. She was excited to see Geetha.
“After so long,” she said, taking Geetha’s hand into hers. Geetha was equally exhilarated. Her face lit up like the moon on a full-moon day.
Both sat next to each other without a word, for a few minutes, enjoying the pure joy of seeing each other after a long time. It was sheer poetry. As the poet had said, friendship is the sweetest thing in the entire creation.[1]A line from a popular song, srushtilo teeyanidi snehamenoyi
“So, tell me, what is new?” Satyam asked.
“You tell me,” Geetha said, squinting playfully.
“You know what is happening in my life. And I know you know that. So, only you can tell if there is anything new. What did you do during the holidays?”
Both were quiet for a while. Both sat there staring down; heavy thoughts filled their hearts. Each felt some kind of solitude in the company of the other. It was a unique experience.
After a few minutes, Geetha opened her mouth, “It seems your mother was hesitating to accept Mamayya’s proposal. Why?”
Satyam nodded.
“Well, you know, dealing with the rich.”
“Why?” Geetha asked again. She could appreciate her mother’s concern, yet, she wanted to hear it from Satyam.
Satyam laughed gently, smacked on Geetha’s head, and said,”That is cute. You asked why my mother would not accept it, and again, asking me why I would accept it.”
Geetha, too, laughed. “What can I say? I am perplexed by the whole thing.”
Satyam took some time to reply. Then, she spoke slowly, very slowly, “Geetha, you are smart but not worldly wise. You are like a little child. You eat when you are hungry, and sleep when you are sleepy. You don’t think beyond that. It never occurs to you that to think how the food got into your plate, or how things get done if you sleep.”
Geetha sat there, listening to Satyam’s words. She thought Satyam could be right. She had always felt distant to everything. Ever so often, she stood aloof, thinking things would happen without her intervention, and watching things happening without her intervention, as if she was an audience, and she had no role in it.
Satyam had two older sisters and two younger brothers. Her father died when Satyam was eleven and the last boy was two. Her mother, Papamma, was lived with dignity; never approached others for help. After her husband died, she managed the household by doing odd jobs at others’ houses in the neighborhood. Her mother also lived in the same house. She spent her time by reading the epics like Ramayana and Maha Bharata for other women in the neighborhood. Eventually, she had a small group of devotees. They would bring fruits, vegetables, and occasionally, a saree and blouse pieces, and sometimes, small cash.
Together, the two women were getting by.
Some people in town blamed Papamma’s brother for not coming to her help. Tired of the accusations, her brother one day paid a visit to Papamma. He said, “Look, in stead of doing odd jobs in the houses of others, why not stay with me and do the same?”
Papamma said, “I don’t think that is a good idea. When I work at other’s place, if there is a disagreement, I can walk away without thinking twice. If that happens, because of our relationship, we would just squirm; we could not walk away as in the case of outsiders. I understand your dilemma. But it is better this way.”
Satyam recounted this story and said, “I have no expectations like my mother could find a groom, comparable to Lord Rama, for me. I am just being realistic. Siva Rao Mamayya garu and Kanakam Atta garu are highly regarded people. Syam is all talk but immature. Plus, he respects you. And, you care about me. That is good enough, I thought; don’t you think so?”
Geetha felt like a great burden was off her chest. “Alright, I agree I am a dim-wit.”
“Oh, shut up,” Satyam gave a little smack on her head, playfully.
Satyam and Syam were married within a month, and moved to a new home. Siva Rao Syam put him in his business and started to train him in business matters.
***

Geetha completed B.A. and Bachelor’s degree in Education. She joined as a teacher in the same school Paramesam was working. Both her parents were losing hope of getting Geetha married.
***

(Continued)

(July 1, 2022)

References

References
1 A line from a popular song, srushtilo teeyanidi snehamenoyi