Tag Archives: Bhanumati Ramakrishna

Bhanumati’s Story of a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, review by Nidadavolu Malathi

This is the second story of the series in my analysis of Telugu humor.

The story opens with the mother-in-law (Attagaru) proposing to pay a visit to the Lord Venkateswara in Tirupati. She says that the lord appeared to her in her dream and was angry of her indifference.

My Attagaru [mother-in-law] insisted that we must go to Tirupati on that very day and pay a visit to the Lord Venkanna. My husband, who said he would not be able to go with us, and suggested to postpone the trip to the following week. Frankly, he has nothing to do yet never free to do anything, as the saying goes.

“Blasphemy, blasphemy,” Attagaru said, touching her two cheeks per our custom.
I was amused but did not laugh. Nevertheless my two hands touched my cheeks gently and reverently, and my lips muttered ‘blasphemy’ instinctively.

“So, what’d you say?” she said. She was observing madi at the time. She touched  the door curtain inadvertently but moved away quickly, probably thinking I did not see it.

“You go with Kodalu. We can all go together later,” my husband suggested.Attagaru went on insisting, “How can we go without you? That’s blasphemy. You shouldn’t even utter it.”

“What can I do? I have several urgent files to attend to. I can’t leave for another week at least. How would I know about your plans? You laid it on me out of nowhere. Did you think I have dreamt of it?”

“Now that you mention it, actually I had a dream; I saw the lord Venkanna in my dream. How do you think he appeared in my dream? He looked exactly like our elderly neighbor Purushottamacharyulu. His body was smeared with red kumkum, and he was holding a silver-lined cane. He was standing on the other side of our door and called out ammanni. I was so stunned, was not sure why He was angry with me. I was in the kitchen. I dropped the pan right there and ran into the hallway. By the way, it did not look like our hallway, nor the kitchen like ours. The kitchen looked like the one in my grandfather’s house and the hallway like that of my uncle’s.”

My husband finished his breakfast to his heart’s content and got up to leave. “Alright, alright. So be it. Are you done? I’ve to go,” he said.

“There again you are being disrespectful. Do not talk like that. The old man with a forehead featuring red kumkum was no other than Venkanna himself. As soon as he saw me, he yelled, ‘Ammanni, What has gotten into your head? You have not  paid a visit in a long time. You seemed to have forgotten even my existence. What a nerve,’ and he started beating me up with his cane. Trust me, there was a such huge swelling on my head. I knew even then that Venkanna was angry with me because I did not pay my respects to him, and I was being punished for it.”

My husband laughed and said, “What a nice God! He beat you up and made you decide on a trip to his temple.”

“No respect, I’m telling you. How can you joke around with Venkanna. What do you know about Venkanna anyways. He will slap you with his shoe if you are disrespectful toward him. My Attagaru told me that He had beaten her with a silver sandal in her dream; that was a very long time ago though. I am lucky, I was wearing the madi saree. So, he smacked me with his cane only on my head …”

This short dialogue between Attagaru, her son and the daughter-in-law [Kodalu] sets the stage for a long trip in their car from Madras to Tirupati–the trip of Attagaru, with Kodalu, their driver and a Malayalee as an errand boy.

The list of items they took with them shows author’s eye for details. The author shows her love of humor in itemizing the list in an irreverent fashion. The driver brought a kerosene tin filled with all the things he had been collecting to offer to the lord over period of time–during his wife’s and children’s sicknesses, strands of hair from his children snipped according to Sastras and kept “in stock”, etc.

It was a fierce struggle for him but he made sure that nothing else was put on the top of that tin box. Our errand boy, a Malayalee, sat in the front seat. And he put his leather bag, containing his clothes, on top of the driver’s tin box. That caused the driver to wiggle as though the life was squeezed out of him. He said quickly in his half-baked Tamil, “That tin contains items avowed to be offered to the Lord. You can’t put a leather bag on it, that’s disrespectful.”

Those two never got along to start with. The Malayalee boy yelled back, “Where else can I put my bag? On my head?”

Then the narrator continues to tell us the precautionary measures Attagaru had taken before leaving the house: My Attagaru locked each room – the kitchen door in the back of the house, the paddy room, the storage room, the puja room in numerical order. She left unlocked only the hallway in front of the kitchen for the cook’s use. It was like donating the Sahara desert. She alerted the gardener to watch the house, and told him to move the buffaloes to the cowshed in case it rained and then, came out and sat in the car, along with the palm leaf basket containing her items avowed  to the Lord. In the meantime, I locked all the rooms upstairs and returned to the car.

This is the strength of Bhanumati’s style. In describing the actions of Attagaru, she does it in exasperating detail, and in her own case, sums it up in one sentence. After all the detailed explanation, it is not over yet. Attagaru says they need to hand over the keys to her son (narrator’s husband). Kodalu assures her that they can drop them off at his office on their way.
The car made a few miles and the tire on the side my Attagaru was sitting burst with an earthshaking sound. Attagaru was stunned. “Oh god, where is that blast coming from?” she asked, clutching my arm tightly. I was not sure whether I should laugh or curb it. “Don’t worry, Attaa, just the tire burst,” I said, struggling to hide my laugh.

Here the author is setting stage for another incident with similar connotation to follow later. If it is not humorous for the reader at this point, it will be soon. The driver puts on the spare tire and proceed to their destination. While they are on the road, Attagaru goes into a rambling about all the relatives they had in Tirupati. Kodalu says that is one of the reason she wished her husband was with them. If he had accompanied them, they all would go straight to the temple, and return home. Without him, Attagaru insists on visiting her relatives and Kodalu cannot say no. And the next question is whom they should visit. Both Attagaru and Kodalu have their own preferences.

For those who are not familiar with Indian customs, and conditions particularly in the sixties era, here is something you need to know. First, the relatives may be cousins twice or thrice removed, and secondly, a family can always show up at the relatives door unannounced. Also, the length of the visit can be anywhere from one hour to a couple of days. Bhanumati cashes in richly on all these aspects of extended families to bring about humor in her stories.Thus Attagaru decides to visit one of her relatives. They go there only to find a big padlock on the door. Apparently, the prospective host family went away on a tour of their own. The same thing happens with the second choice of Attagaru. After running out of all her options, Attagaru agrees to visit the family her son had suggested earlier, which happens to be the choice of Kodalu also.
There once again the figure [size] and the temperament of Attagaru come to surface, much to the chagrin of Kodalu.
The doors were small and narrow. Attagaru lowered her head cautiously and turned sideways and entered the house. My todikodalu [co-daughter-in-law] was surprised, put her hand to her cheek; her eyes opened wide and were rolling as she said, “Who’s that? Atta, is that you?”

“What’d you mean who? Have I changed that much that you can’t even see who I am?” Atta said, pulling her saree palloo over her shoulders, to avoid evil eye.

“Oh, no. Nothing happened to you, only your body … just a little …” my todikodalu said.

As can be expected, the comment from todikodalu triggers a rampage of heated argument. Here is one such description, where Attagaru teases todikodalu and the rebuttal from todikodalu.

“That’s what I’m saying too. Maybe you looked like a twig in your day but now who can miss your body type? The same people who laughed at me in those days are laughing at you, aren’t they?” todikodalu said.

“Let them laugh. It seems it is my karma I should take this banter from you.”

“Nobody said anything madam. I am the one who’s taking all the banter here. Only you said that my people were penniless and murky; You poured insults on my family; You made fun of my nose;

Only you said that my husband had taken to bad ways because of me; You’re the one who called me garish and wicked.”

Readers need to remember difference in the two forms of the second person pronoun–nuvvu and meeru. While Attagaru uses nuvvu, todikodalu uses meeru. The implicit element of respect in the use of meeru fades away in instances like this.
Despite the attempts of Bavagaru [todikodalu’s husband] to break them up, Attagaru and todikodalu get into a verbal exchange, dredging up the insults each poured on the other in the past several years.

Next morning Kodalu and the daughter-in-law of todikodalu are surprised to see the same two women engage in a friendly chitchat as if nothing happened the day before. Attagaru and Kodalu set out for the temple and they invite the host family to join them. That includes Bavagaru, his wife [todikodalu], their son, his wife and the baby. The car starts looking like a woman in her third trimester.

The tire on attagari side bursts again. Attagaru cringes, screams ‘Oh lord’ and clings to Kodalu. Bursting the tire on the same side twice, why? Kodalu wonders, suppressing a smile. Even todikodalu cannot contain her laughter and covers her face with the palloo.

Todikodalu and Attagaru engage in a round of verbal exchange once again. This time it is about modes of conveyance each of them enjoyed in their younger days—horse- drawn carts, cars, and such, they or their families had owned in the past. Bavagaru tries to shut up his wife. But her mouth works as a piece of machinery–an “automatic system”. She has no control over her vocal chords.

Eventually, they finish the darsan to the lord and go to the traveler’s bungalow. After eating the food served in the temple, Attagaru rests for a while and todikodalu lies next to her.

Kodalu (narrator) and the daughter-in-law of todikodalu go to see the rose garden. Their hearts jump at the sight of the flowers and are disappointed at the thought that they are not allowed to pick the flowers. Even if they had picked, not allowed to put them in their hair–that would be a sacrilege. It is interesting how often Kodalu is reminded of what is sacrilege and what is not. By extension, we the readers are also warned of the same.

Eventually they return to the bungalow, apprehensive of the kind of scene they might be walking into. Contrary to their fears, they find Attagaru and todikodalu in a boisterous mood. Both of them are laughing loudly, teasing each other, and saying to each other, “Go away, Atta,” and “You go, jackass.”

They notice the two daughters-in-law [Kodalu and the daughter-in-law of todikodalu] back from their walk, and speak in unison, “Come on, girls, we’ve good news for you. You two are going to have a huge feast soon,” meaning, they have arranged a wedding between todikodalu’s brother’s son and attagaru’s older sister’s grand-daughter.

Before the actual marriage takes place. however, Attagaru and todikodalu get into one more round of verbal exchange. The young daughter-in-law takes on Attagaru to calm down while Kodalu takes on todikodalu to appease. That is a strategic move. Kodalu knows that she cannot work on Attagaru and so sends the young daughter-in-law to Attagaru. This is one of the instance where the author’s knowledge of human nature and the negotiating skills come to the fore.The narrator comments, “Like two hostile planets moving in one combat zone, those two (Attagaru and todikodalu) will meet again in one place for the wedding that is going to take place in the month of magha [the eleventh month per lunar calendar].”

Reader can visualize the narrator bracing herself up for the impending event. Bhanumati was knowledgeable in astrology, which she used in her stories often. One more interesting angle in Bhanumati’s stories is the naming practice. In traditional Telugu families, it is common to refer to people by their relationship rather given names. Like most of her stories, Bhanumati always refers to people only with kinship terminology. So one has to remember the context, who is saying what and with reference to whom, to understand words like son, daughter-in-law etc. It is confusing on one level, yet it also makes a powerful social comment on the interpersonal relationships in the Telugu homes.

This article by Nidadavolu Malathi has been published on thulika.net, April 2006.




Kamakshi’s story by Bhanumati Ramakrishna.

The name Kamakshi says it all; she is very beautiful. She has big eyes that capture anybody’s attention. Soon after she started working in our house, I noticed a marked difference in the behavior of our domestic help. Our cook, Muthu, the errand boy, Reddy, and the gardener, Nagappa are so taken by  her beauty, they kept messing up their jobs on hand, and for that reason, were getting  plenty from me and my mother-in-law, fairly frequently.

Our maid Sayamma fell sick and was admitted into the hospital.  We started looking for another maid.

The milkman brought in Kamakshi. He said, she is new in town; came from Coimbatore. He filled us in on other details about her family, too: her parents and brothers run a fruit stall in Coimbatore. Kamakshi, also, was selling fruits from a cart, going from street to street. People would jump to buy fruits from her, which was very annoying to other fruit vendors. They would comment, that people were buying from her, only because of her beauty, and not because of the quality of the fruits. In fact, the fruits in her cart were all rotten and spoiled, they’d say. Still, the fruits would go so fast whenever Kamakshi stood by the cart. On the other hand, for some reason, if her sister stood there in her place, not a single fruit would be sold. Not one person would stop to buy from her sister. Kamakshi’s brothers would comment that her beauty was their enemy. They would get into trouble with somebody or other, claiming that that fellow said something about Kamakshi. They beat them up, and get beaten too.

If it were not the fruits season, Kamakshi would find work as a maid in somebody’s house. On one occasion, she went to work for a Chettiar. He asked her to rub oil on his hair and back. She quit right away. Kamakshi wears no jewelry. Her only jewelry is her sharp tongue, and her agility. We asked her why she was not wearing any jewelry, not even earrings. She said her husband pawned her earrings and the nose-ring.

Kamakshi never smiles. She keeps herself busy, with her chores, and with a grim face. On a rare occasion, if she smiles, her face lights up like the full moon, and the dimples on her cheeks add to her beauty, immensely. She is hardly 25. There is a streak of sadness in her eyes. Her husband is sick with some disease, she said. They rented a small hut nearby, for 10 rupees per month. Her husband used to work in construction. He couldn’t get any work, anymore, since he was coughing too much. He stays home, supposed to be taking care of their 3-year old son. Instead, he spanks him, all the time.

Kamakshi leaves home at 6:00 in the morning, and returns late in the evening. The neighbors told her about her husband’s assaults on the child, and advised her to take the child with her to work. That is when, she decided to send the boy to her mother’s home. She found somebody going to her village, and sent him away, with them.

I told her, that she could bring the child to work, at our house.

She replied, “No, ma’am. If I keep him here, he will miss school. My mother will take good care of him.”

I was a little confused. Why would a father beat up his own child? She said, “’Cause the child won’t call him dad”.

My mother-in-law intervened, “What’s the problem? Why won’t he call him, dad?”

Kamakshi explained her situation, “My man says the child is not his, ma’am. He sent me away to my mom’s home, and was living with another woman. Me was giving me hard time all my life. He is okay, though, as long as he is not drinking. Usually, he gets drunk, comes home, and beats me up. My mother never liked him, and that’s why she took me back, to her home. I gave birth to the baby at my mom’s place. I was okay there; and made my living, selling fruits. How would the child know who the father is, to call him ‘dad’? I was always in mother’s home, as long as he could remember. Just, recently, my parents straightened out things, and sent me and the child, back to my husband. My mother did not like it at all. The man is caught up in another woman’s trap, and gave her my gold chain and my wedding saree, you know!”

My mother-in-law was shocked, and surprised at her patience.

Kamakshi is still afraid of her husband. She would just quit whatever she was doing, as soon as the clock strikes 6:00, and rushes home. “I have to go,” she would say.

“What is the rush? Why don’t you finish the job on hand?” my mother-in-law says.

“You don’t know ma’am! My man is very suspicious, by nature. If, I am late, even by a few minutes, he would come here, and wait for me at the gate. He would beat me up right there, calling me all kinds of names. Please, let me go. I’d finish it first thing in the morning.” she would beg.

“Where is your husband? Bring him here. I will show him his place,” my mother-in-law would say.

“Oh, no, ma’am! One look at him, and you will throw up. He looks like a dry stick, for all his drinking, fretting, and fuming, all the time. Always carries a knife with him,” Kamakshi said, with some concern.

On hearing the word ‘knife’, my mother-in-law changed her mind about teaching him his place, and stopped asking Kamakshi to stay past six. Instead she would rush her to leave quickly.

Her annoyance shows in her other comments, as well. “Wherever you got him? Is he is a rowdy or what! What a headache!. Go! Go! Leave as early as you want. Make sure he does not come near our door,” she would say, anxiously.

And, then, she would turn to me, and continue to express her concerns, “Let’s look for another maid, a better person… We can’t have someone walking around our house, with a knife, can we? Talk to the watchman at the gate, in Hindi, and tell him not to let him in, no matter, however desperately, he pleads. I almost forgot. The watchman also has a knife, right?”

I could hardly contain my laughter, as I try to calm her down, “Yes. The watchman has a knife. We don’t have to fear anybody.”

“Isn’t it sad that such a beautiful girl, like Kamakshi, should end up with a sick fellow like him? On top of it, he whacks her, too. What a jerk; and she is such a delicate darling. How could he have the heart to beat her with a stick?”

Muthu, our cook, the errand boy, Reddy and the gardener, Nagappa saw the scars on her body, and were worried, as if, they had sustained the wounds themselves.

“That jerk of a husband should be chopped into pieces,” Reddy said.

“If you see him, you will know. He could not be her husband; should not be. It is not fair, that donkey should be her husband,”  said Muthu, wailing at her misfortune.

“She is so beautiful, almost, like a carefully, carved sculpture. How can she have a sickly, and worn-out, man like him, for a husband? Disgusting rascal. Did you see his eyes, blazing red, like charcoal? It seems he drinks varnish*! That is why he keeps coughing all the time,” Reddy said, with suspicious looks.

“Yes. That is true,” Nagappa added.

“Then, Kamakshi might contract it too,” Muthu commented sadly.

“What a misery? Poor Kamakshi! Poor loser!” all the three expressed their deepest sympathies.. They were so lost in their discussions; Muthu didn’t serve our lunch until 2:00 p.m. on that day.

Reddy started talking to himself, dwelling on the misfortunes of Kamakshi, and would heave deep sighs.

One day Kamakshi was delayed, by about a half hour. Her husband came, and was waiting at the gate for her. My mother-in-law heard that he was at the gate, and became a nervous wreck. She hollered for Kamakshi, and told her to go home. “Go, go home,” she kept hurrying her..

Kamakshi begged my mother-in-law not to insist. “I can’t go home, ma’am. Please tell the watchman to throw him out.” She added that, she is tired of her husband’s attitude, and was scared for her own life, in case, she gets the same disease from him. She dabbed her eyes, as she expressed her fears.

Reddy supported Kamakshi’s claim. “That is true, ma’am. What if, she also contracts the disease?” he said.

My mother-in-law cast fiery looks at him, as spoke, “What do you care? Why are you so bothered about her husband? How many times, do I have to tell you not to intervene in her affairs?” she reprimanded him.

“Why do we care, ma’am? We are only sorry for that poor woman. That’s all. She is suffering from that ailing, good-for-nothing, scoundrel. That’s all we care about.”

“Is that all? Really? That’s the only reason for your worry? First, tell me this. Why should you all worry about her, or any other woman, for that matter? Tell me that? I can’t figure it out, you rascals! You explain to me,” my mother-in-law took them to task.

“Really, ma’am. What is, in it, for us? We are just concerned, since we all are working for you, in the same household. Otherwise, why would we care? We heard that his disease is contagious. What if she get it too?”

“Ha, that is what is bothering you?  Don’t you worry about it. You just mind your own business,” she said, and then switched to the next subject, “What do you mean contagious? Who says there is anything contagious between a husband and wife*? How is that possible? You stupid fellows! Stop talking about her and her husband, and mind your business,” my mother-in-law would chide him.

Reddy pretended to leave, was standing behind the door, to listen, what Kamakshi has to say.

Kamakshi stood there, like the very incarnation of innocence, and rolling her eyes every second, like the beam of a lighthouse, and heaving deep sighs. Obviously, she was having the time of her life, with all the attention she was getting for her helpless situation, I thought.

My  mother-in-law hit the roof at her attitude. She did not appreciate Kamakshi’s request to get rid of her husband. At the same time, she was, also, aware that it was not a good strategy to show too much anger. They would have a problem finding another maid! So, she toned down her fury.

In the meantime, Kamakshi’s husband sent for her, again. My mother-in-law became frantic.

“What should we do now? She is really a pest, I would say,” she whispered in my ear.

“Just let’s keep quiet, and watch,” I suggested.

“Fine. What if these idiots go out and say something to that scoundrel? You know, he is high. He might create a scene. And then, the police will show up; and it will turn into a three-ring circus.” She is getting wild by the minute.

Kamakshi was standing there, with a little pout. My mother-in-law was like Vasudeva in front of a donkey*, started begging her to leave.

“How can I leave, ma’am? I’d beg him to go to the hospital; he won’t listen. He has no intention of getting help. He says he won’t leave me alone, says can’t trust me. What can I do, you tell me, ma’am. The doctors say, I might contract it as well, if we continue to live like this.”

In the meantime, Reddy, Nagappa and Muthu went out to see her husband, who was waiting for her at the gate. He was hardly in his senses. As he saw them approaching him, he pulled out his knife. Reddy, Nagappa and Muthu instantly snuck behind the watchman. Kamakshi’s husband started screaming, that those three men were standing in her way, and stopping her from coming home. He challenged them to step outside. He said he would chop each one of them, and make a minced meat of them.

Then on, the three men wouldn’t go out, not even to a movie, for fear of getting killed by him. Reddy used to go to the second show. Now, he is afraid to go past the gate. “Who knows, what he is capable of? The rascal is never sober. And on top of it, he drinks that cheap varnish. Who can tell what is on his mind, what he might do for vengeance? It’s like a stone in the hand of madman; nobody knows where it falls, when he throws it.”

Nagappa also changed his habits. He used to go out for tea, on the hour. Now, he hardly leaves home. Somebody told him that Kamakshi’s husband visits the same tea stall! Kamakshi did not go home, for two days now. Her husband is showing up everyday at the gate, and sending for her. Reddy, Muthu and Nagappa would not go anywhere near the gate.

Kamakshi’s husband wrote her a note saying that he would swallow poison and kill himself. Reddy, Nagappa and the cook, suggested, unanimously, that we should let her go right away.

Kamakshi was preparing the dough, on the grinding stone, for breakfast. She saw the note, and broke into tears. She washed her hands, and said she would go out, and talk some sense into that stupid husband of hers. Nagappa, Reddy and the cook begged her,  not to go with him; they made sure that my mother-in-law was not watching them while talking to Kamakshi. Kamakshi gave them her word. They were very anxious to hear what she would say to her husband, but would not dare, fearing the knife he was carrying. They were pacing up and down the hallway, like the cat with a burnt foot. They kept casting uneasy looks at the gate, every few seconds, and waiting for her to return.

Kamakshi came back, wiping her tears. All the three gathered round her, like the flies on brown sugar. “What happened,” they all asked her, anxiously. She was silent for a while, kept heaving deep sighs, and rolling her big, beautiful eyes pitifully. She sat down, and resumed grinding the dough.

Reddy sat down, near the door, and across from Kamakshi. “So, what happened? Did he agree to go to the hospital?” he asked her.

Kamakshi shook her head, a negative.

Nagappa made himself at home, on a nearby bag of chaff, and said, “Of course, he wouldn’t. He’s sworn to harass her.”

Muthu was near the door, leaning on it. He said, “May be we should ask our saar* to pull in his weight, and get him thrown in the hospital.”

Reddy is vexed with all this. “In one word, tell us. What is his problem anyways?” he said.

Kamakshi broke into tears again. It seems, he is willing to go to some hospital, stay there for a year, and get help, provided she gives him two hundred rupees. She has no way of raising that kind of  money.

Nagappa, Reddy and the cook looked at each other. Next minute, Reddy is all sympathy for Kamakshi, and started comforting her, with great concern.

“He is stupid. What kind of a man would ask his wife for money? How could a woman raise so much money?” Reddy said, losing himself in a reverie.

“What if he does not leave, even after getting the money?” the cook expressed his doubt.

“He is not going to go, anywhere, without Kamakshi. Probably, he would throw away that money on his drinks, and would be back in no time. No point in humoring him,” Napappa said, sounding desperate.

“No. He will not be back. He said, he won’t. Even if he comes back, I made it clear, that I would not leave this place. He said he would give it, in writing. I don’t want that kind of a husband,” Kamakshi said, looking down.

With those words, the cook, Reddy and Nagappa were happy. They, nearly, started jumping up and down, that Kamakshi is, finally, free from all the hassles. They all, decided to show their big hearts, and donate their savings, and help her out.

The next day, Kamakshi’s husband left town. After 4 days, she received a telegram saying that he got sick, drinking varnish, and she should go there, at once, to visit him.

Kamakshi, tearfully, threw herself on my mother-in-law’s feet. She said, she has to go to see her husband in the hospital; or else, the world would not let her live, and, that, at least, for the sake of saving her face, she must go. My mother-in-law made her promise, that she would return in two days, and advanced some money, from her paycheck.

Kamakshi took the money, and asked me if I could spare an old saree, since all her sarees were worn out. I gave her a saree.

At the time of her departure, Reddy, Napappa and the cook gathered around her. They told her not to go near him. They said, that she should visit him, only from distance, and return home soon. Kamakshi took the money, their life’s savings, and left to visit her husband in Velur.

One week passed by;  and then, two weeks. There was no sign of Kamakshi. Reddy, Nagappa and the cook started getting nervous. They were getting worried sick about her. We all were, pretty much, worn out, while waiting for her return.

One day, my mother-in-law asked the milkman, “When, do you think, she will return from her village?”

Kamakshi and the milkman were neighbors. “What do you mean ‘returning from her village’? She and her husband never left town. They are here, all right. Kamakshi is working in some other house,” he said.

Then, he added, that Kamakshi and her husband are used to playing games like this; that they are not really married; and that they earned considerable amount in this manner.

My mother-in-law went into a shock, kept beating her forehead, thinking about the money, she advanced her. “Shrewd, shrewd,” she kept saying.

Reddy, Nagappa and the cook heard this, and collapsed. The money, they gave Kamakshi, is not small. They felt, like the thief stung by a scorpion*. As if that was not enough, my mother-in-law handed them a punishment. She said, they have to finish the chores of Kamakshi, until they find another maid.

Reddy, Nagappa and the cook were, anxiously, waiting for a new maid.

My mother-in-law is searching for a woman with gray-hairs, and without encumbrances.


(Originally the Telugu story w published in a collection, Attagaru- nakshalaitlu).

Translated by © Nidadavolu Malathi and published on thulika.net March 2002.