This Saturday I am not going to preach anything. I am just giving you my story The Risk. If you can read between the lines you will come to know that this story is really a continuation of our Warning Bells Discussion Varalotti The Risk A Short Story By Varalotti Rengasamy “What the hell are you talking? Are you in your senses? No, Vara, I will never allow that. You know what kind of a risk you are taking? What happened to you? Are you all right? Shall we go to the Doctor now?” This was the response I got from my husband of thirty years when I first told him of my heart’s desire. When my husband shouts in a fit of rage, to respond to him is to lose your battle in the very first round. So I just let him vent his first gush of his feelings and calmly went about with the work at hand. I knew for sure that given adequate time he would turn around and support my view. I set the dinner table for the four of us – my husband, me, my son Rahul and my daughter-in-law Rekha. “Vara, are you deaf? Did you hear what I said? I say, give up that idea right now, or else…” I saw Rahul and Rekha walking in. They appeared to me more like colleagues than a couple. Rekha never stops talking. My husband works for an insurance company. My son Rahul works for an MNC and his wife Rekha works for a Government bank. I know that my idea would be met with a much stiffer opposition from my son and daughter-in- law than what I faced from my better half. “Hi Dad, Hi Mom. Looks like you two are having some serious arguments. I could hear the noise from upstairs.” I just smiled and evaded an answer. My husband wanted to recruit some members for his side in his tirade against me. “Rahul, I think your mother has gone nuts. At this age – the full fifty years of it - she wants to drive a two-wheeler.” Give another million years. The males would never evolve enough to understand the psychology of women. No woman would gladly suffer such kind of denigrations from her husband particularly in the presence of her daughter-in-law. I cast an angry glance towards my husband. My son started laughing as if he had just heard the world’s finest joke. “What Ma? Are you crazy? Driving a two-wheeler, at this age! Even I quit driving a two-wheeler five years ago. There is too much traffic and too little traffic sense. It would be suicidal to attempt to drive a two-wheeler, especially at your age, Ma. Who planted that funny idea in your mind?” My reply was just a bland smile. “What the hell is the reason for this impulsive decision?” – he hooted. If Rahul had enough maturity I would have been sincere in my reply. I could have said ‘Seeing young girls flying past in their mopeds and scooters has filled my mind with a kind of exhilaration. That has planted in me the desire to drive myself. What’s wrong in that?’ But Rahul is not matured enough. I get furious when I am asked to justify my smallest whim or the slightest fancy. When Rahul was in college he drove to <st1:City><st1lace>Bangalore</st1lace></st1:City> in his bike, just for ‘the heck of it.’ Now why can’t I ride a two-wheeler just for ‘the heck of it?’ “Look Rahul. I want to drive a two-wheeler. Period. It’s just my heart’s passion. And at this age I need not explain why the desire came. Do I not have the freedom to do what I want to do, at least at this age? And that too after our twenty fifth anniversary?” I turned to my husband with an accusing look. He understood and looked down. When we were married – about thirty years ago – I was very young. I had just turned twenty. Dancing was then one of my passions. I wanted to learn dancing and broached the subject to my husband. “Dancing and that too by a decent family woman? How dare you say that? Even having a desire like that is immoral. Look who dances: the actresses, the nautch girls and -I am sorry to say that – the prostitutes.” Back then I was just a country girl to whom the husband was a living God. So I put an end to my dancing career. But I could never forgive my husband for that. Whenever any fight erupted between us I never failed to mention his attitude in repressing my skills and talents. When we celebrated our twenty fifth anniversary five years ago he promised to give me whatever I wanted – whether it was a diamond necklace or a huge bank deposit, I could name anything. “I would like to have full freedom to do whatever I want to do. To go out with my friends or to visit my parents whenever I want or to learn computers or take lessons in French or play shuttle or to go swimming or just to have a weirdo hairstyle. “I don’t have any particular plan at present. Whatever I want to do don’t try to block it. Okay? And that freedom, I tell you, is much more valuable than the sparkling diamonds or lakhs and lakhs of money you have or can ever hope to have.” In a moment of rare realisation which dawns on males only when they are in their fifties, he had agreed to that. Ever since then whenever he opposes my desires I never hesitate to remind him of his commitment, his silver jubilee gift. He got the message and would not venture to talk further on this issue. “Ma, are you really serious? How will you drive the vehicle, Ma, with your overflowing nine yards of silk saree? How will you ever learn to balance yourself on the vehicle, negotiate the curves and be not frightened by the oncoming vehicles?” Before I could start answering his questions, he burst out into another round of lamentations.