Monday, October 18, 2010

My Entry.

Women's web has announced a contest asking contestants to write about their favorite female characters. Details about the contest can be obtained here. And here I go!

I've read Sivasankari's Nakel some 10 years back but it is a story that I love to repeat since it impressed me a lot. I must admit that I am not very sure about the names of the main characters. As far as I remember they are Renuka and Muthuswami. I may however be muddling up the names. Kindly bear with me. The essence of the story remains the same. so read on.

The character of Renuka in a Hindi translation of Sivasankari’s novel titled ‘Nakel’ is an all time favorite among the many female characters I like. Nakel’ means the halter – pin/ halter fixed to an animal’s nose to tame/control it. I think it should translate into ‘mookannakayiru’ in Tamil but unfortunately a web search did not throw up any result so I am not sure. However my desire to read the novel in the original remains and I do hope I am able to lay my hands on it soon. The actual surprise is at the end of the story and Sivasankari is simply brilliant to come up with such a superb ending to a story that seemed so very stereotype.

Renuka, the typical docile, tolerant Indian woman is aware of her husband’s umpteen affairs outside marriage but cannot do much about it. She has inherited a business empire from her father but is incapable of running it and happily lets her husband Muthuswami manage things. The story begins with Renuka’s teenaged son telling her that he had seen his father emerge from a hotel room accompanied by his secretary. He felt that the two of them shared a fair degree of intimacy. Renuka waits for her husband to leave on a business tour and swings into action. She first visits the secretary’s home and realizes that her family solely depended on her income for sustenance. She meets the girl’s father and offers to get her married to Muthuswami. Her inability to satisfy him in bed due to health reasons was bothering her and she wished to do something about it. She assures him that his daughter would continue to support him even after marriage. She also offers the same explanation to her husband’s elder brother who strongly opposes the idea initially but relents later. By the time her husband returns a date for the wedding is scheduled and preparations are underway. The husband is inwardly delighted but puts on an appearance of reluctance. The wedding takes place as planned. The two leave for their honeymoon.

On his return from his honeymoon Muthuswami rushes home with gifts for his first wife and children and looks forward to some private time with her. He had after all neglected her long enough. But no, he is in for a surprise.

Renuka asks him to leave her alone and move in with his second wife.

“From now on you will be staying with her in her house.” She declares. “The world knows that I got you married to a woman of your choice due to my indifferent health. So no one will be surprised if you do not stay here. You may visit us during the day if you so wish. This will not be your home any more.”

““The company will pay you your salary on the first of every month and you can look for a rented accommodation to suit your requirements like all other employees.”

Muthuswami remembers that the company was legally in her name and he himself a mere employee. Taking her loyalty for granted he had never bothered to change the arrangement.

“Why did you do this to me?” Wails Muthuswami.

Renuka explains. The secretary would accompany him on his business tours and keep an eye on him. It would not be easy to fool her the way he managed to fool Renuka. When the question of the marriage of their children came up, society would accept a second wife in his life but would object to a father with roving eyes. As for her she would stand tall as the sacrificing wife who understood her shortcomings and placed her husband’s happiness before hers.

She has the last laugh.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Obsessive behavior

Long back when I was new to this industrial town I was amused to observe an obsession for cleanliness in some of my neighbors. Now who doesn’t like a well kept house with everything in perfect order? But it is one thing to strive to keep things in order and quite another to drive everyone crazy due to the obsession. S was one such person. Her house could be easily mistaken for a well maintained hospital ward such was her obsession for cleanliness. I once went to her place to make an emergency phone call. I did not have the courage to step in lest I dirty her drawing room. Every thing stating from bed-linen to sofa covers were sparkling white. She had finished cooking, the gas stove had been wiped clean and covered with a white towel and every corner of her house looked well maintained. The children had gone to school. Their slippers had been washed and lined up in the balcony to dry. I was all praise for her house-keeping skills. We had tea together in her balcony and I took leave and returned home. From my own balcony I could see hers and to my surprise I saw the within minutes of my departure she had washed the sofa cover that I had sat on and was quickly wiping the floor having swept it soon after I stepped out of her house. I was annoyed and amused at the same time. Stories related to her obsession for cleanliness were whispered by my neighbors. Her children were scared to use the toilet after they finished their morning routine and left for school. She would wash the bath – room cum toilet once in the morning and again before an evening bath. The children normally relieved themselves at school before coming home or found excuses to use a neighbor’s bathroom. She was however kind enough to let them use it on their return from play in the evening before she washed it. It was a common sight to see her husband open his shoes in the landing and walk into the house carrying it in his hand to be placed in the shoe rack. I often wondered if it made sense to have a sparkling house at the expense of torturing children in their pre-teens.

Another neighbor D would detain her servant till seven in the evening. Every item in the house had to be dusted and ever corner of her house would be wiped over and over again. Her children aged six and two would be seen playing in the verandah in all weather conditions. They would be denied entry out of fear that they would mess up the house. Oh yes, she loved them a lot but her obsession for cleanliness far outweighed her love for them. We would often see her escort the servant home. She’d be dressed in a petticoat and a loose shirt hardly befitting a woman of her status. Her excuse would be that she hadn’t yet cooked for the family and would change after finishing her cooking and had a bath perhaps at nine or ten in the night. Through out the day one could see her peculiarly dressed, hair uncombed and duster in hand. I often wondered if she cooked breakfast and lunch for her children (her husband had his meals in his office canteen) or treated them to readymade snacks and cold milk if at all.

My own mother in law had a fetish for cleanliness. But hers was within normal limits and the routine of the house certainly did not suffer. While my sister in law and I relaxed with a book in the afternoon she would tidy the kitchen and clean up stuff. She would never be satisfied with the way we arranged things. To her credit I must admit that her organization was better than ours – so what if she kept changing the order every now and then. And she certainly would not start sweeping and swabbing the house after every visitor left.

I wonder how common or uncommon this trait is in society. Wanting to have a well kept house with everything in perfect order and working towards it should be okay. Like in the case of S, she worked hard and maintained a high standard of cleanliness. But the fact that she was always well dressed and her family was well cared for is indicative of the fact that she did not let her obsession interfere with her role as wife and mother. She also had time for social visits, shopping etc. But not letting a child use the toilet in their own house was taking things too far.

D on the other hand was obsessed with her desire to have a sparkling house but her obsession was such that her children were neglected and her work was never over in time. I later heard that she was taken to a counselor for psychiatric assistance. When does an obsession become abnormal I wonder. Long back I read a short story titled ‘araikuraigal’ by the Tamil writer Jayakanthan. It was amusing as well as thought provoking. It points out that the line dividing sanity from insanity is very thin. I suppose it would be wise to set limits to one’s obsession/ambition and stick to them. Excess of any trait however appealing can only be harmful not only to the person but to others who are in association with him or her.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Joint Families - an introspection

I have the habit of raving and ranting on social issues and this time it is about the possible reasons behind the lack of attraction to the joint family system. Who is to be blamed is my question? Following an introspection I realized that my generation is as much to be blamed for the situation as the current bunch of young parents. Read more about it here and give me your honest opinion.