November 17, 2012
Savitha was my friend when we were little children in the primary school. Being neighbors we had played a lot of games together. Since she was a year younger than me, I treated her like a younger sister and she treated me like an older sister. I would keep telling her what she would face in the next grade and prepare her for the hard times.
When we played house-house (we did not have many dolls at that time) she would always want to be the wife and I would reluctantly play the husband. I still remember she would cook breakfast for me with mud and water, tea would in the coconut shell with lots of water and various other things. After work when I got home I would always get her a flower or some piece of cloth which we would assume was saree and get excited all about it. Thus our home was always filled with happiness and the wife and husband would be very happy at the end of the day. Well I did not have any issues with her being the wife always because she was very beautiful; she had light brown eyes, curly brown hair which was up to the waist and skin so creamy that it shined. You could say I was a bit envious as my looks were just plain especially when I was a little girl.
However when we finished our high school my family shifted out of the locality and we attended different colleges. The time and distance did not favor our friendship and we completely lost touch. In the meantime I had graduated in the commerce stream, completed MBA and was employed in a MNC in Bangalore.
After nearly a decade I was at the supermarket in our hometown with mom and as usual she was nagging me about getting married at the right time, while half the things she said were not even reaching my ears.
I was busy looking at the items displayed in the cosmetics rack when an arm on my shoulder made me jump up. Before I turned to see who had scared me I could hear some girlish giggles. It had been a long time since I had giggled like that or heard them from someone. When I turned I saw Savitha standing behind me with a bright smile.
When I saw her I was lost for words, she had changed more than I had ever imagined possible. If not for her sparkling brown eyes I would have hardly recognized the once bubbly girl in front of me. She had deep dark circles and her skin was patchy with lots of scars from acne. Her hair was cut above her shoulders, scant and looked like she battled with a tornado a few minutes back. Her finger nails were short with chipped nail polish and a band aid around her pointer finger. Her figure on the whole looked like she was emaciated and there was nothing except skin and bones.
In a flash a man of around 38 – 40 years was standing and watching us as we hugged and kissed. She turned to him and said “This is my childhood friend Anita and Anita this is my husband”
Her husband did not smile instead he asked me “So you are her childhood friend is it? Where is your husband and where do u live?”
I was shocked at such display of discourtesy, however since I wanted to talk to Savitha more, I just smiled and told him “No Mr. Anand I’m not married and I live in Bangalore currently, since my parents stay here I have come to visit them.”
Savitha knew that I was offended and she gave me an apologetic smile. Moving on I asked Savitha if she would like to come and visit my home as I had to drop mom. She looked at her husband who had a stern expression on his face.
Savitha said “Anand please can I go with Anitha? Dinner is ready and I have cleaned the house, washed utensils and also pressed all the clothes. I will come in time to serve you dinner.”
Anand gave me a very dirty look and I could see that he did not want her to come. He asked me “Why don’t you want me to come? After all I’m her husband and she never goes anywhere without me.”
I told him that he could definitely come for dinner to our house during the weekend as I would be leaving by Sunday to Bangalore. He looked a bit skeptical, but consented to send Savitha over to my house.
Savitha looked at me gratefully and we went to my house after loading the car with all the purchases. Mom was also very pleased to see Savitha and asked her all sorts of questions. I was kind of embarrassed when mom started asking her if she knew of any eligible bachelors for me, or if Anand had any brother of marriageable age. The questions kept on flowing and now it was my turn to give an apologetic smile to Savitha. She assured me with her eyes that it was ok and she was actually enjoying the talk with my mom.
Once we reached home mom was busy in the kitchen and so we started catching up from where we had left about a decade ago. I found out that Savitha was married to Anand a business man at the age of 21 before her graduation results were out. It was an arranged marriage and her parents were quite impressed with Anand’s flourishing business. However things were not going smooth lately and he had faced a lot of financial problems as the staff had quit due to his temper tantrums. There was a police case against him because he assaulted a staff for coming late to work a few times.
After this she had requested him if she could work. Since she had completed graduation in Arts field, he permitted her to teach small children. She was strictly warned that she would have to leave the school premises immediately after the bell rang and never to talk with anyone and to mind her own business. In school the other teachers would often call her out to lunch or to birthday parties for their kids and she would make some lame excuses not to go.
“Anitha it is quite a humiliating situation when your colleagues ask you to come to the shop outside to buy some color pencils and you have to tell them that your husband is waiting to pick you. Sometimes he tells me that he was passing by my school in the noon and saw me on the road outside the school premises, which is so not true because I have never gone out of the school gate.”
She wept bitterly after telling me all these painful details. Moreover after the downfall of his business they were living in Anand’s parent’s house. So her daughter was looked after well and was not beaten by Anand unnecessarily.
After talking about all her problems we noticed that it was 8 pm, we had spent almost 3 hours talking about her life. Now she panicked that it was too late and she was sure that Anand would be angry with her. We left home hurriedly and I drove the car a little recklessly to drop her home “Anitha, I don’t mind if I have to die today. My only concern would be that my baby will have to grow without a mother. Sometimes I wonder what use is a mother if she can’t help her children from being beaten up, threatened, or yelled even from their own father. I find I’m a helpless person and a useless mother.”
I just consoled her that there would be better times and she should not worry too much. I parked the car outside the gate and we both entered the compound. I could hear Anand yelling at the top of his voice on the phone
“….. Tell your daughter to stay away from my wife. We know what your daughter Anitha has done in her life. Two years back her engagement was broken and so she ran away to Bangalore. She is such a bad influence on everyone. She will definitely want to break my home and my marriage. Such women are responsible to break other people’s house also. I want my wife under my thumb and I have kept her like that, I don’t want your daughter interfering with us anymore. You think your daughter will ever get any guy to marry her? Girls like her deserve to live and die in loneliness”
I could not bear to hear anymore and so I barged into the house with Savitha weeping and I could hear a child wailing loudly in the corner. I saw a very angry Anand with red eyes looking at me with murder on his head. I snatched the phone from his hand and told my mother to relax and that I would come home in sometime.
I looked at Anand and told him “Yes Anand my engagement was broken because I got a very good job in Bangalore and the guy whom was engaged to me did not want to leave his job and change to another city. Just because I had a high paying job he was insecure and wanted to tie me down. My parents have educated me not to be a doormat, I can very well take care of myself and my family. Don’t think that by raising your hands on your wife and daughter you are showing how manly you are. Just another thing I have been getting a lot of proposals lately however, I’m taking a lot of time to consider the right guy so that I don’t end up like Savitha.”
I turned to Savitha who was stunned by my show of bravado “Savitha if this animal ill-treats you, please take some action. You have your parents and everyone who will support you. Please make your daughter brave enough to face a bully like this. Being quiet will not help your situation.”
Anand now was burning with rage and shouted “Get out of my house you evil woman. We don’t want you to break this family. I know exactly what women like you do.”
“Mr. Anand, don’t categorize people just because my engagement broke or even if I was divorced it shouldn’t concern you. I just pity your mother who has not done her duty in teaching you the correct manners. How would you feel if your own mother was treated this way? Don’t tell me you have no respect for your mother as well?”
Listening to all this commotion Anand’s parents who were taking a walk in the garden after dinner hurried into the house. His mother was quite old and bent “What happened son? Why is Savitha crying and who is this woman screaming in our house?”
“Oh aunty I’m glad you are here to see your son behave like an animal. I’m sorry to say that you have not taught your son to respect women and he treats them like dirt.”
The aunty replied “I’m sorry dear if he has said anything against you. He is a bit short tempered you see and so was his father and his father’s father. Probably it has been a tradition that has been handed down from generations. I tried hard to change him but children learn from their adults and so has he.” She gave a sad look towards her husband who was crouching in a corner.
“Anyway Aunty, Savitha is my very good friend and it’s terrible to see her in this condition. I wish you had taken better care of this girl whose parents had brought her up with so much love and care to be a jewel in your house. A man can only succeed if the one woman in his life is happy. Anand I have nothing against you, however this girl is very precious so take care of her.”
I wiped Savitha’s tears, hugged her and left from there. Maybe it was wrong on my part to interfere but I could not help myself. I had no news from Savitha for almost a year. When I had gone home to celebrate my birthday and also meet the men mom had lined up for me I saw her in the same supermarket.
This time I went and nudged her “Anitha oh! How nice to see you. It’s been a year now. Guess what happened after your speech the other day. Anand changed completely, he is very caring and loving and we had a baby boy who is 3 months old. Since his change of attitude his business improved and I happily quit my job. These days I’m at home with my tiny tots and you can hear laughter and giggles all the time. Although we don’t talk about the ugly episode, Anand talks about you with lots of respect. He tells me that you are one brave woman and I’m lucky to have a friend like you…….
The rest was all lost in her giggles and I was happy to see that she looked a lot like the small girl I had known in my life. Well now it was time for me search for my Mr. Right. Nevertheless Savitha told me something which touched my heart “Anitha, you know there are two types of love – one is love at first sight. This type of love happens when you get attracted to someone and if these lovers separate then they can still continue to live a normal life. However be very careful with the second type of love – in this love a person falls in love with the good qualities of the other person, the looks are secondary. If these lovers are separated due to destiny then they still remember and pine for each other all their lives. The second type of love is what I have found in Anand, we fell in love with the qualities that have built the other persons character. I’m sure I will never be able to live without him.”