The house was bustling with friends and well wishers. Children were running around. Everyone was trying to be helpful. Rajam was busy making the necessary arrangements for the prayer ceremony when her mother in law Lakshmi called out to her.
“ The priest will be here at 10’o clock sharp. Are you sure to have everything ready by then?”
“Everything is ready amma” replied Rajam.
“Did you count the Shivlings?” asked Lakshmi “ Set them in silver plates. Keep them in separate lots of a thousand in each plate. Ask someone to help you. You haven’t had solid food since yesterday. Did you have something to drink? Shall I fetch you some orange juice? I don’t think the priest would object to your having some fruits to eat.”
“I’m not hungry at all” said Rajam touched by the concern shown by the older woman “All I want is for the function to proceed without any problem. The suhasinis are already here. They will gather in the main hall and will soon start chanting the SOUNDARYALAHIRI. It is very important that they leave our home in a happy and satisfied frame of mind.” Rajam was a god-fearing woman. The suhasinis were a carefully selected group of women who had been invited to represent the goddess Parvati.
They had to be treated with due respect lest the gods be displeased.
“Everything will be fine child” said Lakshmi “you are such a kind hearted soul. No evil can ever befall you.”
The cook came to ask for something and Rajam left to attend to his query. Lakshmi’s mind raced back to the time when Rajam entered the house as a young thirteen-year-old bride having married Sundaram her eldest son. The two of them had instantly taken to each other and over the sixteen years that had gone by Rajam had indeed become an integral part of their family. She was a friend to her brothers and sisters in law and a second mother to their children. Sundaram was a serious minded person and having lost his father early in life he took up the responsibility of educating his brothers and marrying off his sisters. Rajam stood by him ever cheerful, never complaining. Lakshmi had almost forgotten the days before Rajam’s arrival. She was much more than a daughter in law to her willingly adapting to the customs of the family and never proceeding to do anything on her own be it cooking a special meal or deciding on the gift to be given to a newly married couple in their neighborhood.
‘ If only these two had been blessed with a child…….’ thought Lakshmi.
“Amma” Sundaram’s voice woke her up from her reverie. “ Is it alright if I go out for a short while? I need to draw money from the bank. By the way I plan to draw 10,000/- rupees. Will that be enough?”
“Make it 15,000/- son. We should not run short of money and a little extra money won’t hurt. I know this puja is a little expensive. But Rajam rarely asks for anything so let us not deny her the pleasure.”
“I’ll be back soon amma. Ask the priest to start the rituals let him not wait for me.” Sundaram left accompanied by his niece Shanta.