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Saraswati - Chapter 1

Discussion in 'Stories (Fiction)' started by umaakumar, Aug 19, 2021.

  1. umaakumar

    umaakumar Gold IL'ite

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    This is a long novel that i wrote a couple of years back, just for time pass. It is my first attempt at writing a novel. Thought would share it with you all. The essence of the story is to depict how strong women can be and the changes they cam make to their family,

    CHAPTER 1

    Gently flows the river cauvery. Flowing through many cities and small villages. Little does it know how many lives begin by its bank and how many millions feed because of its water. Little does it know that history has been created by its bank and many kingdoms have fallen and new kings have been created. It does not know about the bondages and the fight for freedom being discussed by its banks every evening. Many poets have grown to fame by weaving their poetry by its bank and many musicians have sat and sang songs in its praise sitting and feeling the quiet and beauty of this river. Many a love has blossomed and many a love betrayed on its banks.

    It was on the banks of this mighty river there was a temple for Goddess Kamakshi. There was a small village surrounding this temple and here lived a priest with his wife. He lived by the meagre salary provided by the temple and the offerings received in the arathi plate. The people visiting the temple were very few and hence the offerings were minimal. The prasadam offered to the deity was the only food he had on some days. The house was provided by the temple. The allotted quantity of rice was provided by the headman of the village as was the custom in those days. This was not a glorious period in the history of India, as the British ruled with an iron fist. Taxes were high and hence many had to forego all the harvest as taxes.

    It was in this small village in Tamilnadu that Saraswati was born as the second child to this poor priest. She was called Saraswati as she was born on vijaya dasami day- The day for goddess Saraswati the goddess of knowledge. Saraswati was the goddess who imparted knowledge not only in studies, but also arts, music and wisdom. But in those days women were not educated. The only education that women received was to be repeatedly told that they had to respect their parents when they were children, to respect their husbands once married, and once widowed to respect their Sons. The name Saraswati was only for namesake.

    She had an elder brother called Krishnamurthi. He was called Kichu and she was called Sarasu.

    It was a time when women had more than 10 children. There was no cure for most diseases and the most common death in infants were due to liver disease. Some of them had still born. It was not rare to hear of women dying during delivery.

    Those were the days when the great poet Bharathiar was asking women to cross the threshold and break the bondage of slavery. He was urging the people to send the girl child to school and Educate them. He said educated girls are like a weapon which could create a positive impact in society. He said the future India should not have women locked inside doors. They should be free thinkers and this will be possible only if we educate them. Many were following him and sending their girls to school

    When the time for starting school came, the village head man met the priest while he was returning home and said “it is time for you to send your daughter to school. Find a good day and enroll her”

    Sarasu’s father did not believe in girls' education and he felt it was not required as women were to be at home. He said, “ what is she going to study and do. No lady in my family had ever gone to school”

    Headman said “oye those are yours and my days, today it is different, have you not heard what Bharathiar is saying. He is asking us to educate the girls. Have you not seen the British women who come here, how they talk and how bold they are? This is possible only if we educate the girls.”

    Sarasus' father “Oh so you are carried away by the English missi, soon you are going to tell our girls to wear a frock like them.”

    The headman was irritated at the ignorance of Sarasu’s father, but it required extreme patience to handle ignorant people, he just looked at him and said “until we make the change happen, we will not know if it is for our good or bad, so let us give it a try, I am sure education will do good for Sarasu so please send her to school”

    The headman further said “Have you heard Mahatma Gandhi he is also appreciating what Bharathi is saying “

    Sarasu’s father “It is nice to hear all this talk about independence and education, but very hard to practice. You are talking like Sarasu is going to study and get independence for our country”

    The headman was shaking his head and looking at the hot sun which was burning him and he took out his shoulder towel, wiped his brows and said “please understand that nothing can be done individually, everything need a collective commitment from everyone”

    Sarasus father did not like this talk and said “ Ok, OK, I will send her to school, just because you are asking me. But I still do not see what she is going to achieve, after all when she is 13 we will look for a suitable groom and get her married”

    Kicha was already going to school and now it was Sarasu’s turn. There was only one school for this village and all the children attended this. The priest took Sarasu to school on the first day and filled up all the forms and enrolled her. Sarasu thus started her education.

    Kichu was given all the preference as he was a boy. Boys were considered superior to girls.

    Sarasu was more encouraged to do housework. Her father and mother often quoted “for the hands that are going to light the kitchen fire all through her life, why should you study so hard “

    Sarasu’s mom too kept telling her that she has to be a master in household chores, otherwise her Mother in law would hit her with a stick.

    Her mother had experienced such reprimands from her mother in law. She had entered this house as a bride when she was just 12 years old and was married at the age of 3. She was now relieved of her in-laws because they had left for Kasi when Kicha was born. She had obeyed them until the day they left. She was taught to respect her husband and never to talk back to him. She would stand up everytime he spoke to her and eat only after he came home at 11.30 AM and had his food. Even on the days when she was very hungry she would not eat.

    In most households it was a custom to first have a bath immediately upon awakening. Sarasu was woken at 3.30 Am. bathed, helped her mother with washing the courtyard. Then she would help her mom to draw the kolam. Her mom would encourage her to draw the small ones and teach her how to do it. Then they would proceed to the temple to do the same routine there.

    Her Mom was so good at drawing these kolams that the entire town would admire them. If there was a function in any one’s house they would always invite her to draw the kolam. This gave her great satisfaction. After this Sarasu returned home and helped with small work in the kitchen and by the time she went to school, she would be exhausted and too tired to concentrate on her studies. Though she passed in all subjects she did not excel.

    On returning from school it was again the pending house work. Kichu was allowed to play, do his homework. He was not allowed to even remove the plate after eating his food as he was a boy. His Mom would often say “boys should not enter the kitchen” Sarasu on the other hand was allowed to play only on completing her house work.

    It was the same with all girls and a way of life and so no one complained. At least Sarasu went to school, but some of the girls were not even sent to school.

    Sarasu's mom had learnt all the alphabets only after Kicha went to school. She was so eager that she very soon started reading all the bits of paper on which her provisions came wrapped. If her husband caught her reading he would comment “Yes, Yes Read, you are going to become an officer, so read” So she would hide the papers and read it in the absence of her husband.

    When Sarasu had completed her 5th standard she was stopped from school. Most of her classmates too were stopped. That was all the education women in small towns were allowed to have. Soon it was talk of marriage.

    In days prior to Sarasu, it was child marriage. Girls were married as young as three just like her mother. The marriage ceremonies for these children would last upto 15 days. It was to get the children acquainted with each other. At the end of 15 days the bridegroom would go back to his house and visit every 3-4 months for a couple of days. Once the girl reached puberty the girl’s father would visit the bridegroom house to inform them. They would arrive at the girl’s house on an auspicious day and take the girl to their house.

    This custom was criticized by all the great leaders of this time, they said it was a sin to get one married so young. Then slowly the age shifted to 12 and 13 or immediately after the girl attained puberty. It was also common that the age difference between the bride and the groom would be 15 to 20 years.

    Sarasu’s aunt who lived in their house was married when she was 3. When she attained puberty, a letter was sent to her husband’s house. In reply they got a letter informing them that the boy (Bridegroom) had died because of Tuberculosis. From that day this aunt lived as a widow. She had shaved her head and worn the saffron saree. She only put ashes on her head instead of bindi. She was considered inauspicious for any functions.

    This was very pitiable and today we are not able to comprehend how the parents never thought of the happiness of the children, or even remarriage for this child.

    Now that Sarasu had stopped going to school, anyone visiting Sarasu’s house would ask “Have you started looking for Mappilai”. If her mother nodded in the negative they would say “better to see soon, only then immediately on her attaining puberty you can get her married”

    On one such visit a lady said ”youknow that Laskhmi, she is now 17 years old and yet no proposal has come, So better not to wait”

    In small towns in those days everyone was acquainted with everyone. If there was anything happening news would spread fast. The negative news would have spice added to it and the positive ones spoken only once or twice.

    When Sarasu was 14 years old, she attained puberty.

    Her horoscope was circulated and many proposals came. Nothing materialised, By this time the talk of the town was always Sarasu “you know she is 17 and yet not married. If she grows any older, someone would take her as his second wife”

    Some others would say “poor priest, probably he is thinking of not getting her married. Where will he go for money”

    Sarasu’s mother sometimes told her husband “en na what sins have we committed that there is no proposal for our little daughter”

    Her father would say ”Don’t get worried. When the time is right everything will happen. There is no dosham in her horoscope, so let us not worry”.

    Then one fine day Sarasu’s uncle came home.

    Sarasu’s mother asked him to sit and said “My husband is yet to come back from the temple, he should be here any minute “

    Then she called out to Sarasu “Sarasu, get some butter milk for your uncle he has come in the hot sun”

    The uncle saw Sarasu and said “It is your matter that has brought me so far”

    The priest on coming inside greeted the uncle “Ad adee how many months it is since I saw you, are you good, what about your family”

    The uncle said “we are all fine, I came here on an important matter.”

    The priest immediately said “Ok Ok come first let us eat, and as we are eating you can tell me about it”

    So, they sat down to eat and the leaves were spread out. Both Sarasu and her Mom started serving the food.

    They ate in silence and washed their hands. Sarasu gave them the betel leaf and nuts in a plate and they sat down with hand fans. And the uncle said “there is a boy in Tanjore, whose horoscope matches with Sarasu’s so If you are interested here is the address you can go and meet them.”

    After getting all the details from the uncle, Sarasu’s father went to Tanjore the next day. It was the custom that the girl's house should always show interest first. He returned the next evening.

    Sarasu and her mom were waiting eagerly to hear the details.

    After having some water he said “The proposal looks good”

    Sarasu’s mom: “What does the boy do”

    He said “He works as a Sastrigal in Trichy, I could not see him personally”

    Sarasu’s mom: “Ok, that is ok, who are all there in his house. Does he seem to be the decent kind, with no bad habits”

    He said ”He stays in one vadhyars house, he works as his assistant. This vadyar has 8 children and along with them he stays, he does not have any bad habits, does not even chew the betel leaf”

    Sarasu’s mom after some time asked ”then whom did you meet in Tanjore”

    The priest said “wait I am coming to that, he is the uncle of this boy. His aunt is also there. This boy is nephew. She was married to one person in another town. He was 40 years old at the time of marriage and she was 13, she died immediately after delivering this boy.”

    Sarasus mom “Iswara pavam

    The priest them added “The uncle and aunt have brought him up, you see the boys father is also a sastrigal and cannot be without a wife for too long, so they got him married again, and the boy was sent to the uncles house”

    (For many religious ceremonies, the man should not be without his wife.)

    Then he said “ The proposal is suitable for us, the uncle and aunt seemed very nice, they are not demanding anything. They just want us to conduct the marriage in a decent way. They do not want any dowry. So I have asked them to come as soon as possible and see Sarasu and then decide, and talk about other things”

    Sarasu in a very soft voice asked “Appa what is his name”

    Sarasu’s mom “see in what a hurry she is in. whatever his name are you going to call him by it, women should never say their husbands name even in their dreams , maha pavam”

    Sarasu’s dad said “Hey that is only after she gets married. His name is Vaitheeswaran, they call him Vaithy for short.”

    It was a few days later they got a letter saying they are coming to see Sarasu. News was spread around to all the important people.

    Most girls dream of their wedding and what kind of a guy they would get. She dreamt of him and expected him to be a very handsome and most loving person. She dreamt he would secretly call her out and talk to her gently. He would admire her cooking and buy flowers for her hair.

    The morning the bridegroom was to arrive was a hectic day. The kitchen was the happening place with 2 or 3 women gathered to make sweets and gossip about everyone in town.

    One hour before the arrival of the bridegroom’s party, Sarasus' hair was combed and braided and jasmines were hung. She applied kajal to her eyes and looked beautiful. Everyone admired her. She was made to sit in the kitchen where she could not even glance at her future husband.

    When the bridegroom's party arrived all the women went to the front door on one pretext or the other. They were coming back to the kitchen and telling Sarasu how he looked. They also said only 4 people had come to see her. Generally, at least 10 to 15 people would come to see the girl.

    Lots of questions were asked about the ancestors of both the bride and groom, there were some common people known to both of them. After about half an hour they called to see Sarasu. Sarasu walked in with her head bowed low. She came and stood meekly in front of everyone. Vaithy’s aunt said “If you keep looking down, how will you see your future husband. Boldly look up”

    Sarasu looked up for a second at Vaithy. She would have loved to have a proper look at his face, but tradition did not allow it. She did the namaskaram and His aunt said “See the bride, after that don’t tell us that there was a fault with her”

    After a few minutes, Sarasu was asked to go inside.

    Vaithy told his uncle that he liked her. No one asked Sarasu whether she liked him. No one asked for the girl's consent at those times. The engagement date was fixed.

    The engagement was a very small affair with both families changing the plates with betel leaf, flowers and fruits. The bridegroom never came for this and was conducted by elders.

    TO BE CONTINUED
     
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  2. Thyagarajan

    Thyagarajan IL Hall of Fame

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    Kichha & Sarasu as siblings how they bond with each other is curiosity. Vaity is going to do what after that betrothal..... proceed further .. good going

    This storyline would be well appreciated be older audience. Present generation could appreciate when modernity infused into the story ahead.

    All the best.
    Regards.
     
  3. umaakumar

    umaakumar Gold IL'ite

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    Dear Sir,

    Thank you so much for you feedback.

    I have not elaborated on the sinlings relationship. Did not think of it as I was concentrating more on Sarasu.

    I totally agree that the first few chapters will not appeal to the youngsters. But for some it could be an eyeopener to the old times.

    I am very happy that you commented and as i proceed waiting to get more feedback from you

    Thank you once again
    Uma
     
  4. GregoriaBoul

    GregoriaBoul Silver IL'ite

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    This is a great read! I hope you continue doing this.
     
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  5. Needtobestrong

    Needtobestrong Platinum IL'ite

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    Very interesting...will read further chapters too.
     
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