Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

The Spared one

"Srivirinchi”  (Translated from Telugu by “Sriman”)


(Rendered from Telugu by “Sriman”)

Ranga Rao pins too many hopes on Sunday. Any serious work to do, any good book to read, or any important letters to be written to relatives or friends, he assures himself he will be doing the next Sunday.

Sunday which comes once in a week peters out as unceremoniously as it lures him. He is now content if only he has a square meal and an undisturbed siesta on a Sunday.

As Dr. Usha who was on rotation duty had to go to the hospital, Ranga Rao was left all alone at home. He felt restless. Even sleep forsook him. He attempted to read the numbers of the journals thrown in all corners by Usha, but he was unable to concentrate.

He could tune the radio on and listen to the music. But he was afraid that might render him sleepless for days together. He consumed the coffee filled in the flask, sip after sip, until it was exhausted.

Why does not time run? At times it gallops so fast that you cannot even catch up with it, he thought. Nothing appeared to him more unbearable than loneliness.

If he wanted coffee he had to run to a restaurant. No alternative.

Never was there a Sunday as difficult to pass as this in his memory. All his plans misfired, his thoughts became disorderly and his mind had become irritable and frustrated. It was impossible for him even to turn on the bed lazily.

For going out and wandering aimlessly in the streets, that was not the proper time. How could any line go for a walk at 2 o’clock in the afternoon? But his mind as well as his body refused to stay at home. He jumped from the bed, dressed himself and started.

After taking the scooter out and locking the house he was confronted with an immediate question: “Where?”, a question that could not be postponed. “Let me have coffee first. Then a filmshow,” he said to himself. “Which film?” Any. Whichever is the nearest. No question of good or bad. All pictures are both good and bad.

The show has not yet commenced when Ranga Rao entered the hall. He looked at the number of his ticket, searched for the seat bearing that number and occupied it, just to avoid any subsequent altercation with others.

He was witnessing the show but it did not interest him. He was feeling drowsy. He yawned in frustration and somehow whiled away the time as though he were in a trance. In the interval he came out and walked towards the cool drinks corner.

Some familiar face–a face which he could not locate at once. The other person, he felt, was also looking at him with similar apprehension.

Nonsense! Why was he unable to place him? Had he not been his acquaintance, why did he have a familiar face? So, with advancing age his memory began to fail.

Ranga Rao was straining hard to recollect him. He felt a kind of fear, without any obvious reason. Did he take castor oil? Why was his face turning red as if with guilt? No use, he could not remember that person.

Suddenly that man advanced towards him with a bright smile, land said: “Hullo, Mr. Ranga Rao, I could not place you till now...excuse me.” Ranga Rao had also to smile in return. He shook hands with him.

So, the hell that he had been through till then was not without a basis. Definitely be must be an acquaintance of his. But where? That he was unable to recollect.

“So, you cannot still place me? Yes, it is quite all right. When I took so much time, there is no wonder if you fail to recollect me.”

Lean, tall, brown in complexion, looking worthy of befriending, who was thisold acquaintance of his?

“Inability to remember is quite in order. After all, how many things are we going to remember in this life?” added that person.

Was it a general remark or was there any hint of ridicule in it? But sincerity was writ large on his face. “I am Raja Rao. We were classmates in intermediate. All of our friends used to call us ……”

Without giving him scope to finish his sentence Ranga Rao hugged him and said: “You fellow, Raja, how is it that you have become so lean and emaciated?”

“Was I at any time as fat as a buffalo? Perhaps, after my advent here I might have lost some weight,” said Raja Rao.

To witness the second half of the film was not a ‘must’ to either. The theatre-owner would not get angry if you skipped after the interval. And that was their usual practice in the college days. Raja Rao was enquiring about a number of things and Ranga Rao was replying to him mechanically. Problems, lists of names and philosophies were pouring out without end in their talk. They continued their talk uninterrupted at home and were unaware of how much time they spent talking before Usha returned home.

After Raja Rao having been introduced to Usha and she having retired into the kitchen, Raja Rao said in a low voice: “You have done a wonderful thing. You proved that it is possible not to care for any troubles for the sake of achieving one’s ideal. I am really proud of you, man!”

“I have not, in fact, done anything great. I just chose the course I wanted to.”

“For you it may not look extraordinary. But few persons can accomplish it.”

Ranga Rao smiled. “You make me recall a joke. It is said that one person challenged another. ‘You cannot do with your eyes wide open what I can do with my eyes closed.’ Do you know what that grand job is? To pour sand over his eyes.”

The joke did not click with Raja Rao. He sighed and said “What is the use of having ordinary eyes? One should possess the eye that could see one’s own mind clearly.”

“You are then referring to the mental eye?”

“If we knew what we were losing, our life need not turn out to be so miserable.”

“Take it easy, man! Don’t brood over life so seriously. It is enough if one rises to the occasion and acts as one thinks best without any fear. Nothing more is required.”

“Exactly. But to act like that one should be sufficiently bold.”

“If there is determination, boldness follows of its own accord.”

“That is what I am not able to grasp.”

“Look here Raja, life is a tempting sweetmeat. If you wish to take it, you have to forego something else. By overeating delicious dishes can one escape indigestion?”
“If we have to forego one thing in preference to another we must be clear in our minds about the difference between the two.”

“That is what our education and culture should teach us.”

“Sure. It is for this trait that I admire you. All of us think we are educated and cultured. But are we bold enough to act as you did?”

“The necessity and the occasion should arise if one has to act.”

“Even if it did arise, do you think we would act as you did?”

“Every individual should answer that question for himself.”

“As for myself, I could not act. Of course, my life was not very much upset by that. But still, when I recall the incident, I feel ashamed of my cowardice.”

“How did you act? I mean, how did you fail to act?”

“I could not marry the girl I loved, as you did. As was in your case, there was no need to risk separation from my parents. Still I could not take a bold stand.”

“Forget the past. You say you are none the worse for it.”

“But you see, dear Ranga Rao, life is not a trade to think in terms of profit and loss. You would laugh if you listen to my story. I, at times, feel like crying.”

Ranga Rao thought that it must be some incident resulting in self-pity, and nothing else.

After enjoying the dinner served by Dr. Usha, both the friends retired to the terrace. The weather was cool and pleasant. Their minds were refreshed and calm. They felt like those engaged in recklesslyscaling the Himalayan peaks.

Raja Rao narrated his story: “I have got a maternal uncle who has got a daughter. Her name is Vijaya. She has been thought of as my prospective wife ever since she was born. Both of us liked it. We were friendly.

“My uncle came all of a sudden one day when myM. A. final exams were hardly two months ahead.”

“He said he would not offer Vijaya to you?”

“No, he wanted the wedding to be solemnized immediately, within a month.”

“What was the urgency about it?”

“It appears ridiculous to me now. But believe me, this was how my uncle argued. Some astrologer, before whom even the planets would tremble, has predicted that he would not survive for more than two months. So he would like to clear all his liabilities at once. And Vijaya’s wedding was a major one among them.”

“Where was the difficulty? You liked her. You could have easily agreed to it.”

“No, the trouble was–my father was as adamant as my uncle was superstitious. Though mother was favourable, she too did not like uncle precipitating matters. My father finally told uncle: “I do not see any danger to your life. Even if something untoward happens, I give you myword that we will take Vijaya as our daughter-in-law. You need not worry. We do not like to divert Raja’s attention before his final exams, and if he gets low rank his chances for a decent job would diminish.”

“So neither of the two was accommodative.”

“See how things can go wrong even when agreed by the concerned. No one cared to consult me. In his anxiety to celebrate the wedding before his own eyes, uncle immediately selected a son-in-law more qualified than myself, and performed the marriage. How Vijaya received it, I have no idea. But in my case, I took six months to get over that shock.”

“Don’t bother. Now you are reconciled. Aren’t you? How are Vijaya and her husband?”

“They are getting on well. And my uncle is still going strong. My parents never excused uncle’s reluctance in breaking the long-cherished alliance. But uncle, in a philosopher’s pose, lifts his hands up in the air and says: ‘Everything is done according to His will’.”

“Have you ever met Vijaya since?” asked Ranga Rao.

“Yes. Vijaya who ought to have been my wife attended my wedding with a son in her arms. She was a mother of two children by then. I could not look straight in her eyes. Nor could she. We never broached the topic between us.”

Ranga Rao was silent.

“Though I was not consulted, had I taken a bold stand, do you think my life would have taken this turn?”

“What is wrong with your life now? Both Vijaya and yourself are happily settled,” asked Dr. Usha who was sitting on the staircase and was following the narration.

Noting that Usha overheard his entire story, seated on the staircase, Raja Rao blushed and said: “Not that there was any irreparable loss….but my inability to marry the girl I wanted since my childhood…..on account of my uncle’s superstition and my cowardice…..” Raja Rao could not complete his sentence in his embarrassment.

“Neither your uncle’s superstition nor your cowardice was at fault. You were not destined to marry each other. That was all. Are not marriages made in heaven?” said Ranga Rao.

“Don’t you think it is escapism? Is it not a round about way to explain away your inability to set things right in your life?”

“Is Vijaya the daughter of Mr. Subrahmanyam of Kakinada, by any chance?” enquired Dr. Usha.

“Why? Yes. That very Subrahmanyam is my uncle. You know him?” asked Raja Rao, looking at Usha with surprise.

Ranga Rao explained. “Yes, Usha worked for some time in Kakinada.”

“You know Vijaya too?” asked Raja Rao with enhanced enthusiasm.

“Oh, no, no. Only I know her by name. That’s all” replied Usha hurriedly.

Dr. Usha could not suppress a smile when he recalled the reason why Vijaya’s marriage had to be rushed through in such an unholy haste.

In a flash of a lightning Ranga Rao noticed the smile on Usha’s lips. But Raja Rao still went on persecuting himself.

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