Most Gracious ILites, Words are not enough to thank you for your overwhelming response to the last thread. I can assure you, Ladies, that I never got offended, even if the replies were vehement. There was an incident which we saw from different perspectives. This week we shall see a story but it is a story only in format. This was my very first story in English published in Womans Era in Feb, 2002. I am sure that the responses this time will be even more emotional. regards, Varalotti THE FREEDOM SONG - A Short Story By Varalotti Rengasamy I was as restless and impatient as only a new groom can be on his wedding night. I was waiting for my bride Malathi to be ushered in. I still could not bring myself to believe that this is reality and not just a fantasy that occurs after a heavy meal. No one would have believed that the most popular singer of the day Miss Malathi Jeyaraman would end up as my wife! My mind was racing back to the time I first met her. A well known Music Sabha had an account with the bank in which I worked . Thanks to the small favours I showed to the Secretary of that Sabha I got a complementary ticket for MJ's concert (that was how Malathi Jayaraman was popularly known in the world of Music). She was already a crowd-puller and after a song in a super-hit film she was the current rage. Sitting in the front row I was listlessly waiting for MJ to appear on the stage. When she gracefully entered the stage precisely at the appointed hour I was awe-struck by her beauty. She was tall enough to qualify for the beauty pageants. And her face! The chiselled features and the eyes which betrayed a sort of vulnerability - I fell in love with her then and there. I sat through the three-hour classical music performance feasting my eyes on the artist rather than my ears on what she sang. I met her behind the stage at the end of the performance just to congratulate her like an ordinary fan. I know that an ordinary Scale Two Officer in a nationalised bank like me is no match for that beautiful, talented artist. Yet I could not help falling in love. Bitten by the love bug I attended MJ's every single performance in the city. And every time I met her behind the stage to dole out liberal praises directed more towards her person than towards her performance. Slowly the intimacy grew. From the stage of muttering a formal thanks she went to that of complaining, "Why didn't you turn up for my concert in Music Academy last week?" I for my part took the liberty of commenting on her dress. "You look great in this black silk. But the yellow one you wore the day before yesterday, oh, it was lousy." Our love entered the next stage when we exchanged the telephone numbers and started talking to each other in the late hours of the night, uttering sweet nothings. Then we exchanged notes about our personal lives. I did not have much to say except that I was an orphan but brought up well by a reputed orphanage. Her father was her friend, philosopher and guide. He had spotted the talent in her while she was quite young and had nurtured it with great pains to make her what she is today. He had gone to the extreme of resigning his quasi-Government job and had been acting like her secretary managing her dates and finances. She was so much devoted to her father that she virtually worshipped him. Her mother had died long ago. Given the circumstances and given my knowledge of Kollywood movies I was sure that her father would be the first villain to our love. But reality was not just stranger but much sweeter than fiction. When one fine morning I broached the subject of our love to her father his response was graceful. "Mister Sethu I have been enquiring about you. I know that you lost your parents very early. But I have been given to understand that you are a good man with neat habits and strong values. I am happy that my daughter has made a sensible choice. But Sethu, let us not forget the realities." The first reality that hit my face was his dropping the prefix Mister from my name. He continued. "You are just a Scale Two bank officer. Malathi's bank deposits runs into seven digit figures. You will have everything - eventually. But you should not insist that Malathi should come and live with you after the marriage. “You should not cage her in a five hundred and odd square feet <st1lace>West Mambalam</st1lace> flat and make her cook wash and clean for you. You don't understand? I approve the match on one condition that you should come and live with us. “You are free to pursue your career in banking. And Malathi will pursue hers in singing. Managing her dates and finances will be my prerogative in which you should not interfere. But for this you will get all the respect a son-in-law deserves in our tradition. Is it okay for you?" I could not deny the fact that I was hurt by his pointing out the differences in the economic status between us. But I was head over heels in love with Malathi that I immediately accepted the conditions imposed by her father.