Slowly it was turning dark. The Sun who was overwhelmed by the crimson color of the twilight horizon was embracing the horizon with swelling love and was losing his senses in a blissful communion. Widespread, the pond bank remained all still. Birds were returning home in groups. Even at this time some kingfishers were greedily looking for their prey, lying in wait in a closeby tree- branch. Calm, the wind was soothingly blowing.
With eyes on the water-surface and hand on the child that was wandering here and there on the lawn that lay spread on the pond-bank, there was Yamuna. Clear sharp look… broad forehead… she had made her thick dense hair into a bun. In an ordinary cotton saree her rose skin and shapely figure glowed splendidly. In those eyes which would be forever dreaming … that tinge of sadness…
‘Such a gloom should not have come over her’ – So I told myself. Anger and frustration against this damned and cursed society swelled in me.
For, it is the diabolic viewpoints and ugly bent of mind of this society that have turned her so.
I, who was working in Colombo and had come back to my native village after the exit of foreign battalions was so much disturbed by this sight of Yamuna. In our childhood she had been always with me, eating and playing together. My beloved childhood companion. She is older than me by two years. Her astonishing beauty and brains… it is two years since she has got married. I couldn’t attend her marriage at all. It was during that time when our country was full of war and bloodshed that the marriage took place and on that day many youths were taken into custody on suspicion and I was one among them. So much had happened in these two years….
So many changes have taken place. Our very life is but a warfare. A constant struggle to escape, to save our life… as like a warfare within a warfare and a run within the run for life… all those that have taken place… all those unwanted happenings… Today, even after the rains have stopped there is still some drizzling…
Thiayagarajah – Yamuna’s husband. Tying the sacred yellow thread around her neck and taking oath in the presence of the God of Fire that he would look after her as his very life and then not keeping his word and punishing her for no fault of her. Treating her with utmost disdain and contempt at a time when his support and companionship were needed by her the most. At a time when he should be treating her with utmost care and concern, he had discarded her with no second thought and left her, thereby losing his very manliness, to put it mildly.
Decrying her as unchaste and immoral he had gone his way. The condition of Yamuna as the mother of a child caused a deep pain in me. Already she had suffered a cruel assault at the hands of an inhuman scoundrel… and adding to that all-time anguish and agony, this unbearable treatment by her better-half…. God, what is Chastity..? It is something more linked with the mind and heart and it is indeed unfair to use it as a whip to inflict capital punishment on women.
Why did Thiagarajah behave so?
“Ragendran, I’m no Bharathi to discourse on being progressive. The very thought that someone else had enjoyed my wife… kills me. How can I continue living with her..? the very thought is unbearably repulsive…”
“Thiayagu… was it her choice? Please think it over..Did she willingly go to bed with that fellow? At a time when you should be treating her
with utmost care and concern, instilling in her confidence, giving her assurance that everything is fine…how can you speak in this manner?
Think of your child for a moment… Please…”
“Ragendra…. I’m prepared to undertake the responsibility of looking after my child and bringing it up. But, I heard that Yamuna wouldn’t agree to it. Please, place yourself in my shoes and think over… while going out with Yamuna what all catcalls would confront me. Bearing with all those and continue my life with her would prove a shame on my very manhood.. Can’t you realize that…?”
“A shame on your manhood…. God,.. Manliness is not that, my friend… it is your deed of deserting her and leaving her in the lurch that is a blot on your manhood…”
In a way… the society is also responsible for Thiayagarajah’s bent of mind. This society and it’s goddamn rules and regulations… customs, taboos and what not. Caught in the web of all these Thiayagarah behaves so. He is unable to go past the social barriers and he is unable to free himself from their hold…
Faraway, the Sun has already lost half of himself. Darkness has turned more dense than before. Even those few Kingfishers who had been keeping vigil for their prospective prey had left the place long before. Throwing small, little stones on the pond yamuna went on looking at the surface of the water. In my heart too which was in a confused state, a clarity of thought came to be. I too arrived at a decision. And I told her of my decision. She was shocked. For a while she remained deeply plunged in silence, dumb-struck.
“Ragendra…” tears swelled in her eyes. She couldn’t talk further. What can she say. The social- structure into which she is born is such. She is a married woman. Having a child too. In this young age undergoing the trauma of rape at the hands of a cruel, two-legged animal she now
stands all alone, deserted by her husband.But, she is also a woman. And, her heart will also crave for love… and like any other woman she too would long to have the feeling of being wanted. But,will this society give a thought to all these and more, before passing a verdict on her…
‘If they come to know that such a relationship exists between Yamuna and myself won’t my people, my mother and my kith and kin, spit at us? ‘A man-eater, luscious female.. she has caught hold of an innocent youth by her feminine tricks…’ Won’t they tear her to pieces with such heartless observations..? None bothers if a man marries a number of times. A sixty year old man is free to marry a sixteen year old girl. Not one but he can as well have three or four secret marriages. No one questions him. But,a woman.. that too a woman in a hapless state like Yamuna should live this ‘only once born’ life all alone, in a companionless state of exile, killing all her natural feelings and desires, and just behave she has been born a female sans physical and emotional needs. Sainthood is forced on her by the society.
This is the social norm. It is this that the society expects and demands of its female members. I have realized all these. And that is why I stood very much firm in my decision. But,Yamuna turned to look at her child playing on the lawns closeby. And then she looked at me miserably.
Again I continued. “Yamuna, marriage is mainly a union of two persons. who understand each other well and decide to travel together through thick and thin. But Thaiyagarajah’s bent of mind and behaviour has proved that he is no match for you. As for as I am concerned you need a companion, a support in this hour of crisis; the closeness of one who can instil in you the feeling of security and sense of belonging. Why can’t that be me who has been with you right from our childhood days?”
“Ragendra, you have said it all so easily. But, do you know how much of an enmity and hatred it would generate. Your mother, kith and kin… your people.. All would curse me only, you know. Won’t they say that it was right on the part of my man to have left me? Why should you waste your precious life for my sake…? Please leave my worries in my hands alone…”
Saying so, Yamuna remained silent for a while. It is the discourse of womanhood that is so used to bearing all its sufferings in silence… But, I remained firm in my decision.
“Yamuna, I’m sure that I can pacify my mother in course of time. All I want is your consent. Please say yes. That’s enough for me. And, I care a twopence about those social norms that have brought you to this miserable state of being. Suffice it is if we understand each other.”
Uttering these words I looked into her eyes intently. But, she looked into my eyes in all silence. And, I could interpret her silence all too well. I well could realize those pure feelings, love, affection, hope and gratitude that swelled in her eyes and her voiceless words.
“Yamuna…” I took her in a tight embrace. And, she who gave her whole to me finding solace and shelter in my hands went into a blissful amnesia wherein the world outside ceased to be. Faraway, the horizon was turning crimson all over with the Sun losing itself completely in the wholesome communion.