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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Why we in Tamil Nadu are still unable to eradicate begging in public places? Chapter 39 of "What If Our Dreams Come True!"

was returning from Madurai by train, a couple of days ago. At Thiruthangal station, an adolescent boy, his hands crippled somewhat, came begging window after window, with very little success. When he knew that I was about to take out my wallet to offer him some money, he made a request to give him ten rupees so that he could eat something for the day.....................

Here you go with:"What If Our Dreams Come True! An Uncommon Meeting with Lord Siva" - Chapter 39

Chapter 39: Story of Ambika
Ambika was in her early teen-age. She had lost her father when she was only three or four. Her mother brought her up amidst tremendous challenges. Her mother hailed from U.P and married her father when he was working in a construction company there. He lost his job when he lost his limbs in an accident in the construction site. Vexed, he decided to return to Gangaikondan in Tirunelveli district, his native place, to make a living. But soon, calamity struck the family once again. He fell sick with an unknown disease and died. Her mother had liked the simplicity of the place and people. She decided to stay on, as she had already familiarized herself to the place. She was very pleasing to people and hard-working. She managed a number of odd jobs and somehow pulled on. She took care of Ambika as best as she could. Ambika grew up as a very attractive girl.

Durai at Bombay was her only lonely cousin and visited them quite often. He always brought a number of gifts for her. Durai was at least ten years elder to Ambika. He claimed that he had a decent job earning well. Ambika and her mother were fed with a large fanciful image about his job and his life in Bombay. He talked eloquently about Hindi movies and his connections to the film industry. He hinted that Ambika could easily become a popular film star besides a great singer. Ambika spoke Hindi quite fluently coming from her mother and enjoyed visits from Durai.

So, when Ambika came to age and when Durai suggested about his marrying Ambika, her mother agreed readily, as she thought that the fatherless Ambika might see some comfort in life if she married Durai. She didn’t mind the age difference. 

Though Ambika liked Durai, she was confused. She took him as a brother and friend. Besides, Bombay was a huge city and she would have to live among total strangers. Gangaikondan was a nice little place and she was reluctant to move away.

But her mother persisted. Durai visited more often and applied pressure. Having very little choice, finally Ambika agreed reluctantly to marry Durai. Their marriage was held in a simple ceremony at the local temple and Durai packed off with Ambika to Bombay the very same week. He assured to come back soon to take her mother too so that they could all live together.

During their travel to Bombay by train, Durai told endless stories about Bombay. Ambika’s initial fears slowly started to vanish. When they landed at Victoria Terminus in Bombay, she was aghast to see the human waves at the railway station. She travelled by a taxi for the first time in her life and felt elated. She looked on with great awe and amazement at the huge buildings, the roads, the people’s dresses, and the vehicles.

When they reached their place and when she was taken to a ten into ten small apartment room that Durai claimed as their residence, she had her first shock and disappointment.

“Bombay is a very costly place I told you! Even to get this pigeon hole, I had spent several hundreds of rupees as ‘pagadi.’ (*Pagadi was a kind of lump sum money deposited with the owner or the previous tenant of the tenement at the time of leasing a building and was a very common practice in Bombay.) His tone had altogether changed once they were inside the ‘ten into ten’ tenement.

She didn’t understand the word ‘pagadi’ and many other things that happened soon after her arrival at their house in Bombay.

From the next day onwards, they had a number of visitors. Durai introduced them as his friends and colleagues. They all constantly stared at Ambika and openly commented on her beauty. She didn’t like their looks and comments from the very beginning. They used a lot of vulgar language in their conversations and she was irritated to know that even Durai enjoyed those conversations. They spoke a mixture of Hindi, Marathi and Tamil. Some of them even teased Ambika and merrily laughed. She noticed mischief in their eyes. But Durai didn’t seem to mind their staring looks and pricking comments. Ambika felt something was wrong. When one of them touched her, she was shocked to know that Durai didn’t object.

When they all left, Ambika told Durai that she didn’t approve of his friends’ conduct and chided Durai. “You were a country girl all along. That was why. You will understand everything slowly.” That was all he said.
But Ambika understood very soon. She learnt about Durai’s perverted mind and his evil motives. She felt trapped. She realized that Durai was not what she had been made to believe.

On many days, Durai returned home very late at night. He was drunk, smelled like a rat and behaved roughly to her. He assaulted her sexually and behaved like a beast on bed with her. She understood that his earlier behavior was a façade. She understood that she had been cheated. He started complaining about not having enough money with him to run the family and wanted her to work. She was willing to work and support him, if that could mitigate his financial problems.

One day, Durai took her to a mansion where she was introduced to a rich middle aged person who was said to be looking for an assistant. Durai accepted a generous advance from him and left Ambika in his place, cautioning her to behave well with him.

The same evening Ambika understood why she was brought to that place and before it was dark she ran away from that place. That night, she received her first beating from Durai. The torture continued day after day. He forced her to go with him to different people who were all the same. She had somehow managed to escape at every place.

A little more than a year passed by in pain and agony for her.

She never wanted to reveal her condition to her mother. But the situation was becoming intolerable. So she wrote a letter to her mother hinting her problems. She was shocked when her letter was returned back with the remark ‘undelivered – addressee deceased.’ She cried. She was puzzled why she got no news of her mother’s death. Now she had no one to whom she could tell her woes.

When Durai returned home that night, he was drunk as usual. Ambika told him of her mother’s death. She also complained why no one told her earlier. Durai told her arrogantly that he was already aware that her mother died due to some sickness. He also told her indifferently that he had burnt all the letters received earlier from her mother.

‘You orphan girl! Consider yourself free now to do what I want you to do. You don’t have to fear anyone, anymore.’ He didn’t stop there and continued heaping abuses. Ambika became furious now. She was already grieving and now Durai was adding salt to her wound. In her fury, she went to a corner and returned back with a sickle knife. She raised her sickle knife and wanted to stab Durai regardless of any consequences.

‘How dare you are?’ Durai shouted and those were his last few words. His knees caved in all of a sudden and he fell down heavily on his back. Ambika panicked, threw the sickle knife to a corner, and rushed to hold him. But Durai was already unconscious. She ran to her neighbor who quickly managed to rush him to the nearby government hospital. Durai had his last few breaths on his way to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Even before Ambika could arrange for his cremation, she had the second shock of her life. She had sudden nausea and giddiness. The neighbor suspected that she was probably pregnant and the same day the doctor confirmed her pregnancy.

Ambika was in total disarray. She had no money even to cremate Durai and she was now pregnant. Somehow, with the help of a few friendly neighbors, she arranged to cremate Durai and the same night she boarded a train to Madras without a ticket.  On the way, she was accosted by many, including the ticket examiner. ‘Are there no good men and women?’ she cursed.

Back in Gangaikondan she learnt that her mother died a few months ago in great distress. Ambika had no place to go and roamed around places aimlessly. Everywhere she found people ready to use and exploit her and her good looks. In course of time, she delivered a baby girl in a government maternity hospital.

The baby resembled Durai more than herself and it reminded Ambika of her painful days at Bombay. One day, while sitting on a pavement with her baby she was dejectedly singing an old song and some people passing by threw a few coins and notes in front of her. All of a sudden she rediscovered that she could sing well. She went from place to place singing and that brought her some money to buy milk for the baby and at the least, one meal a day. She never bothered to buy tickets while travelling by train and she reached Cheranmahadevi one day without any clue about what lay ahead.

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