As she sat in the midst of old ripped-off cardboard boxes and trashed moth-smelling books, her eyes fell on a pretty old small hand book. It did not look like a hand book. It had the looks of a diary. ‘Someone’s personal diary’, she thought. The curiosity of a girl can take her to places and Arundathi was no exception. She grabbed the book as if it were the best seller of the year and was lying in the street with no one making a claim for it. She flipped through the pages and inside it she saw the ugliest handwriting she had ever seen. If there was something Dhiti (lets call her like that from now on…) valued the most in her, it was her handwriting. She had won many prizes for it in school. The last one she got was when she was in her 12th standard back in school. She always felt that only handwriting speaks more of a person than appearances. Luckily both her mom and dad had pretty decent handwritings and had escaped from her reprobation.
Now seeing the handwriting in that ragged book, she was indecisive as to read it or not. There were two things stopping her from reading the book. One the handwriting and another, the guilt of ‘reading someone’s personal jottings’. As she was thinking, she accidentally came across the year in the diary. It was a pre-independence diary dated 1933. This increased her urge to read the book.
She opened the first page and found that the person had written in Tamil. Thankfully, she had learnt Tamil in her school and her prowess in the language was known to many. She started to read the book.
“May 20, 1933 As I was playing in the swing that hangs from the mango tree in the backyard of my house, I heard my amma call me. When I went inside, there were a whole lot of jewelry and a nice bluish green silk skirt and blouse which had peacocks in it in golden color. I was overjoyed to see it because I was getting a new dress for some reason. My mother asked me to wear it and combed my hair. She kept fresh jasmine flower in my head. I was allowed to wear the jimmiki (an ear ring that looks like an inverted umbrella) and the nethi chutti (a jewelry that is worn on the forehead). I was still wondering why I was allowed to wear all this. Suddenly I heard my dad call for my mother. My elder brother and my sister were running around the house. My mother had told me not to play with them for a while. I was sitting like that like a doll that was kept in the golu (navarathri festival). I could hear voices outside in the hall but I didn’t dare to look outside lest father should be mad at me.
Then my father called out for me from the hall. My mom came inside the room and took me out. There in the hall, sat a crowd that looked as if a whole village had gathered in my house for some unknown reason. All the people in the crowd were very old except for one guy. I could not place if he was a boy or a grown up cause I did not get to have a full look at him. My mom made me serve some savories and sweets to the main people sitting on the carpet. Then my father spoke, ‘Rajam sing a keerthanai (songs that are sung on God’s name).’ I looked up at him and was about to start my protest but looking at the crowd and not understanding what was happening I decided to sing. I did not want to embarrass my dad in front of so many people. So I started o sing a keerthanai on Lord Shiva. There was pin drop silence and after I finished the song everybody clapped their hands. I was so happy that they liked my singing. Then one old lady came next to me and she asked me to stand up and walk and show. She then asked my mom if I was taught cooking. My mom replied that I used to help her with it. But the truth is I had never entered the kitchen till that day.
I was then led into my room. After sometime my mother came in running and hugged me. She was weeping very quietly and said that I was a lucky girl. I didn’t know what had happened. But I was given lot of sweets to eat. Even now as I am writing this I am eating a lovely ghee laddoo. I shall continue later as my mother is calling me now.”
Dhiti was so engrossed that she didn’t realize that her mobile had been ringing for quite sometime. It was her fiancé. She called him and spoke to him. But her mind was fully on the book. She wanted to complete it. She told Raghavan that she was having a headache and cut the call short.
She jumped onto the couch in the hall with the diary in her hand and started to read again.
“July 20th 1941
Now I know my mother’s words were indeed true. I am truly lucky. If not for Vaidhi I could never have lived a life. He gave me a re-birth. I thank God that I have him.”
Dhiti saw that these lines were smeared in some places and realized that the writer had been crying while writing these lines. But she was not satisfied with what she had read, as she did not know for what her author had shown so much of gratitude. She flipped through the pages of the book to see if something else had been written. And she found that in the last page, there was just a line written.
“February 9th, 1996
There ends my life.”
She was so confused now as she did not know what that line meant. She was lost in thoughts and slept in the couch.
Suddenly she woke up with a start and flipped through the pages of the diary. She read the name that the author’s father had mentioned.
She sat upright and it struck that Rajam was none other than her grandmother. But alas!!! She was no more. So Dhiti was feeling impatient as usual. The door bell rang and when she opened the door her mother came in.
Dhiti could not hide her excitement. She showed her mom the diary and asked her what the whole story was.
Her mom heaved a sigh and said, “When grandma was a kid, she was married to grandpa at the age of 14.”
Dhiti asked, “So what is so new about that? Child marriages were so common in those days.”
Her mom replied,” But widow remarriages were not.”
Dhiti was taken aback. That’s when everything became clear. Her grandmother, Rajam was a child widow. Her grandfather Vaidheeswaran, 22 at that time, had married her in spite of protests, in those days when remarriage of a widow was condemned. It had taken nearly twelve long years for her grandmother to understand that she had indeed been lucky. The last line was written by her grandmother when her grandpa had passed away.
She felt proud of her grandfather, Vaidhi thatha.
She whispered a small thanks to Raghavan too and called him immediately!!!!!