It was a lower middle class apartment complex built by government with thin cracks on the faded walls and with plants sprouting from the crevices. Ramaswamy Iyengar had bought this flat about twenty years back after selling his tiny share of land in the native village. Iyengar has been happily living in this comfortably situated and well connected place. Another reason for his happiness was that Kesavan Nambiar, his colleague and close friend of several years, is his neighbor in the adjacent flat.
A retired government servant Iyengar was getting a small pension. He had a son and a daughter born late in life. Govind his son had finished his MCA and joined a reputed IT company. Being bright, he was chosen by the company for long term work in US four years back. Although of marriageable age, Iyengar was waiting to finalize first his daughter Veda’s marriage. Veda after her M. Com joined a private bank earning a good salary. He was frantically searching for a suitable match for her. Traditional and conservative, always clad in Dhoti in conventional manner, he sported his caste mark prominently on his forehead and spent long hours mornings and evenings at the local Kodandaramar temple assisting in its administration.
Nambiar’s only daughter Padmini, a close friend of Veda and of same age, was an extremely good looking and tall girl. She had learnt multimedia and web designing at advanced level and was working with a big publishing company. Nambiar’s financial position was not good and the family lived mainly on the income of Padmini. Though Nambiars often claimed that his search for a good match for his daughter has not been fruitful, Iyengar confided to his wife now and then his suspicion that enough efforts were not put by them possibly due to their dependence on Padmini. The lady agreed with him lamenting at the plight of Padmini and blaming her destiny.
It was then one fine morning a rich Kerala business man with his wife and son approached Nambiars wanting Padmini’s hand for their only son. It seems they said their son was struck by the girl’s beauty when he went to the bank on some business and that they were not particular about the status or the wealth of the girl’s parents. They assured that they would take care of all the marriage expenses including jewelry, clothes, marriage hall and food. The young man looked decent and handsome. It seemed that he was assisting his father in the lucrative family business. Padmini’s parents were flabbergasted at this godsend development and readily agreed after checking with Padmini. The marriage soon over, Padmini left for her husband’s place in the same city. Nambiar shared with Iyengar under strict confidentiality that a tidy amount was given to Nambiar during the wedding as a token of gratitude by groom’s family.
Initially for a couple of months Padmini visited her parents frequently but was not seen thereafter. It appeared that her in-laws were not letting her visit her parents and also forced her to quit her job. She was strictly told not to contact her parents. Nambiars were very much shaken and frequently shared their grief with Iyengar couple.
After three or four months, Iyengar was surprised to see Nambiar at the sanctum one morning from his office space in the temple. The latter rarely visited the temple. When Iyengar found him standing before the Presiding deity praying for long, he went near him and found his eyes closed and tears trickling down his cheeks. He stood by his side quietly waiting for him to finish.
When he opened his eyes, Iyengar put his hands on his shoulder and asked him,” Kesava, are you alright?”
Nambiar tried to be normal and said,” Yes, I am quite fine physically.”
“I did not mean physically. You seem to be mentally tormented with some problem. I have never seen you in tears in all these years as you are a strong personality. If it is not very confidential, you can share with me. It will lighten your burden.”
Nambiar hastily wiped his eyes and said “Ramaswamy, we have been deceived. Padmini’s life is totally ruined,” and started sobbing even before completing the sentence
“Are they ill treating her because she did not bring adequate jewelry or dowry?”
“No, the matter is much more serious,” and he kept quiet without telling what the problem was.
It took a while for Iyengar to ferret out the information that the marriage has not been consummated and that the young man was unfit for married life. It appeared that it was beyond any medical remedy.
Iyengar was shaken initially and after some deliberation said, “Kesava, there is no point in her staying there. You must bring her back immediately to your home. She is a major and can come out on her own volition. As a matter of caution, I will accompany you along with a lawyer friend of mine. He can put fear in their minds, if there is a need. Can we go in the next hour?”
When Nambiar agreed, Iyengar told him, “We will carefully think of a solution later after talking to Padmini. Whatever be the solution, staying at their place is no more acceptable.”
By afternoon, the presence of lawyer friend enabled easy release of Padmini from that hell and she was safely back at the apartment. With Veda providing company, the smile returned to Padmini’s face.
Two days later after dinner Iyengar broached the subject to his wife. Veda was also present. His wife also sympathized with Padmini and wondered what could be done. Divorce is inevitable but what next? The fate is cruel in some cases,” she added.
Iyengar told his wife “I have thought of a plan and wanted to know your views before expressing it to Padmini and her parents. Firstly, I am going to ask Padmini to get a divorce. This can be obtained within a short time, my lawyer friend tells me. Secondly, Govind may be willing to marry her as they know each other well. She is a good match for him. I am not going to see horoscope or bothered by any tradition or opinions. I have almost decided and just need your approval.”
Before her mom spoke out, Veda intervened and turning to her dad said exuberantly,” Appa, you are cute and an ideal father I am proud of. I can now share a secret. Though Govind and Padmini have not openly uttered, I think they are very fond of each other. How nice to have her as part of our family. Appa, please talk to Govind now itself,”
“Let me hear your mom too,” said Iyengar.
” Padmini is no doubt a very good girl. Nevertheless, I would prefer Veda’s marriage to be finalized first.”
On hearing this, Veda exploded “Do you think my marriage would be affected. I don’t care. I will find someone for me. But Govind should give a new life to Padmini immediately. It has nothing to do with my wedding.” Her mom remained silent.
Iyengar softly said, “I have already spoken to Govind. Do you know what that wily fellow said? He tells me ‘Appa, have I ever said no to you ?’”
In six months Padmini was happily married to Govind after due formalities. Veda too got a good match.
When Iyengar went to the temple after a fortnight to resume his honorary duty, he was slightly apprehensive of how the orthodox and conservative management would react, He was pleasantly surprised to see the Trustee of the temple warmly welcoming him with extended hands and congratulating him for his gesture.
Kesavan Nambiar who rarely visited the temple earlier came these days daily.