Today morning, as I came out of my room on my way to my first bath of the day, I chanced upon ‘Vichu’s Aratai Arangam’, a weekly talk show on SUN TV which my mom tries not to miss as it dissects various social issues concerning the Tamil Nadu populace. I find the host and the participants highly cacophonic most of the time and was going to put in my usual token acerbic resistance when I noticed one of the speakers on the show.
She was obviously middle-aged, short, dark and with typical ordinary Dravidian features. She had a clear round face though. She wore a very ordinary looking sari and her hair was made in a bun with a few frazzled ends hanging around her. In fact, she could easily pass off as one of the many maids who have worked in any of our homes over the years. Her eyes seemed to be focussed on the ground at an angle of 30 degrees and her eyes were unmistakably sad. But her voice. Her voice, as she spoke, was clear and unambiguous, filled with a mix of pathos and pride. I will try and translate here what she said. It will be a sub-standard effort since my Tamil is pretty sub-standard and I didn’t get everything she said.
Woman: …Ayya, it doesn’t matter who provides the support, man or woman, it is the quality of support, which matters. I lost my husband 10 years ago. Ayya, I was devastated. After all the ceremonies got over, many men from my community came to my house and said Amma, bring out some chairs, we need to discuss certain matters. I said Ayya, I will not bring out any chairs. I know if I bring them out what matters you will discuss. Please go to your own homes Ayya, I am fully capable of taking care of my children and myself.
Vichu (host): And how many children do you have, amma?
Woman: Ayya, I have four children.
Vichu: And how many girls, amma?
Woman: I have three girls, Ayya, and a boy, the youngest. My eldest daughter was in 9th standard when this tragedy struck us. My eldest daughter scored ____ in her school finals and got a seat in the prestigious Anna University in Chennai and did her engineering. Not only that, she was the topper in her first and second years and graduated as a gold medallist. Today she is working in ____. Ayya, even my second daughter scored ____ in her exams and is studying in her final year B.E. Computer Science in ____. I asked my third daughter when she completed her schooling, amma, what do you want to do? She said, amma, I will be a CA. I said fine, go ahead, and now she is studying towards that aim. When I go with them to a temple, they say amma, why should we thank god, you are the person we should be thanking. When two of my girls were SPL (School Pupil Leader) and ASPL (Assistant School Pupil Leader), their school called me to one of their functions and asked me to light the ceremonial lamp. I asked Ayya, why are you asking me to light this lamp. They said Amma, your daughters have requested us. But my struggle is not over yet. My son is now in the 9th standard now. I have to now see that he too achieves his life’s ambitions. During this whole time, Ayya, I have not shed a tear in front of my children. Whenever I felt like crying, I would run away from their presence. But now here, when I see your kind face looking at me with eyes moist, I cannot stop these tears which are streaming down my face…
And as the camera panned the audience, there wasn’t a dry eye present. As my mother sniffed and I scooted into the bathroom, I couldn’t help thinking about two things. How different would my life have been if my Dad had passed away twelve years ago instead of two? And was the mother helped by the reservation policy in education in Tamil Nadu?