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The Risk - A Sequel To Warning Bells

Discussion in 'Saturdays with Varalotti' started by varalotti, Nov 24, 2006.

  1. varalotti

    varalotti IL Hall of Fame

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    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><st1:place>Bangalore</st1:place></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.
     
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  2. varalotti

    varalotti IL Hall of Fame

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    The Risk Part II

    “You will simply kill yourself, Ma. You remember what happened to your cousin’s daughter? She was driving a moped in the <st1:street><st1:address>Mount Road</st1:address></st1:street>. The vehicle skidded and she just fell down, her head hitting the pavement. She was instantaneously killed. She was an alert young girl of twenty-two years. When that can happen to her, imagine what will happen to you.”

    “Do you know, Rahul, how many are killed while travelling in their cars? And how many people simply die in their beds or in their comfortable office chairs? But that doesn’t mean we should never go to bed or sit in office.”

    His wife Rekha took up the thread from there. I have never seen her becoming emotional. I strongly suspect that she is incapable of exhibiting any human emotion.

    She has never been passionately involved with anything – a book, a movie or a poem, let alone her husband. She has the personality of a dial tone.


    “Ma, let alone the risk of being killed, there is the risk of being maimed. If you fall down by chance and break your bones, then you might be bed-ridden for weeks.

    “You might not be able to walk again for months on end. Even assuming you are not to blame, suppose somebody else drives rashly as a result of which you get hurt? Do you realise what kind of risk you are taking?

    “You are an insurance executive’s wife and I need not talk about risk management to you. The art of fine living is minimizing, if not eliminating, all the attendant risks. Why go out of the way to put yourself in so much of a risk?”

    “Ma, tell me what for you want a two wheeler? Dad has an office car. And I take my car out quite often. So you don’t have a transport of your own. What I suggest is that we three of us will pool some money and buy you a second hand car. We will also appoint a driver at our cost. You can take the car wherever you want. Is it enough? Dad, Rekha, do you agree for this arrangement?”

    They nodded with enthusiasm as if the problem had been solved once and for all.

    “Thanks a lot for your offer, Rahul. But no, thanks. I want to drive a two-wheeler not because I want a means of transportation. I am quite comfortable with the available means - the auto, or the bus or the train during the non-peak hours.

    “I want to drive a two-wheeler simply because I want to do that. Probably I want to explore some new roads, or probably I just like the feeling of swishing past, just to ride about on the roads without wanting to reach anywhere. Or may be, I think that’s the sign of woman’s freedom.”

    That ended the conversation abruptly and we had a very silent dinner together. I knew that I had to allow some time for this vehement opposition to die down before I proceed further. I was not in a hurry at all. But when I chanced to overhear my daughter-in-law’s words on the subject I was infuriated into going for it immediately.

    The other day I heard Rekha arguing passionately about something when I chanced to cross their bedroom. I wanted to ignore that with a smile, but when I learnt that she was talking about me I stood there in the darkness to hear what she had to say.

    “Look Rahul. Let me be clear about one thing. Your mother driving a two-wheeler or a three-wheeler is not my concern. It’s her funeral. But if she drives and falls down and if I am made to act as her nurse, I can’t tolerate that.

    “I can’t exhaust my precious earned leave for your mother’s stupidity. I will just move over to my friend’s place and will not return till your mother is all right. You shouldn’t blame me afterwards. I think your mother has become senile.

    “My suggestion is why don’t we sweet-talk her into consulting a psychiatrist. May be a few months’ stay at an asylum might cure her of such foolish whims. She does not know what kind of risk she is taking. Tell me Rahul, who can talk sense into that old lady?”

    I was shivering in anger. If not for anything else just to prove this silly girl wrong I am going to go for it, I decided firmly.

    The very next day I was on the job. I told about my whim to my Ladies Club friends. Most of them made fun of me. But a few like Mrs.Malini Sivaraman were very helpful.

    “Vara, I know how you feel. We have only one life and I think that if you really like it so much any amount of risk is worth the while. You will have to be just extra careful about that because of your age.

    “I’ll put you on to my daughter who drives a scooterette to her office every day. She will help you in your project.”

    I invited her daughter Preethi for tea and snacks the next evening. A software engineer in her late twenties with a trim figure and a beautiful face, she took an immediate liking to me. She enthusiastically supported my decision – she said being able to ride a two-wheeler is a sign of liberty. Age is no bar for learning any thing.

    I asked about the type of two- wheeler she was driving. She gave a lecture on the types and makes available. The simplest is the moped, which you just sit and speed on. Then you have the scooter but there is the problem of gears.

    For a woman’s physique motorcycles are not generally suitable, though if I particularly wanted to ride one she would arrange for that. The ideal choice will be a lightweight scooterette, which will cost around thirty grand on the road.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2006
  3. varalotti

    varalotti IL Hall of Fame

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    The Risk Part III

    I will have to take a LLR (a learners licence) and considering my age they may insist upon a medical examination. That would not be a hassle she said. She said she would put me on to a driving school known to her so that I learn the basics of driving in their old vehicle before I buy one of my own.
    I said I had always worn the nine yards silk saree in the traditional style. Would that be a problem?
    “Not at all, Auntie. The way you wear it, it looks more suitable than the normal six yards saree.”

    I started attending the driving school the following week. Rahul and Rekha were shocked. Rahul threatened me of dire consequences if I had an accident. Since I was going against all sane advice there would be nobody to help me if I fall down, he warned in a serious voice.

    Even though I knew this was coming, because I had overheard Rekha’s conversation with him, I could not resist my tears on being shouted at by my own son in the presence of my husband and my daughter-in-law.

    I looked askance at my husband who was a silent witness to the scene with an ‘I told you so’ look writ large on his face. I expected my husband would come out with his share of threats and warnings.

    Life has never ceased to surprise me. He threw the newspaper away, stood up with a reddened face and started shouting – at my son.

    “Shut up, Rahul. If she wants to drive a two-wheeler let her do it. You won’t come to help if she meets with an accident, right? No problem. She is much more intelligent than you are. She won’t fall. But even if that happens I will see to it she gets the best possible treatment.

    “You or your wife need not help. Understand? Now please remember that Vara is your mother and you can’t be bossing her around like that. If you can’t help her, at least don’t give trouble to her. Okay?

    “Vara dear, you go ahead with your lessons. All the best. Whenever you are ready, we shall go together and choose a vehicle for you. It will be my gift to you.”

    His supporting me at this critical time is a far more wonderful gift than all the gifts he had given me in the past. Though I have known him to oppose any thing vociferously at first and then support it wholeheartedly later, I had never expected this supportive outburst. He had saved my self-esteem.


    My heart was overflowing with love toward him. I started sobbing shamelessly. Rahul and Rekha left the room without a word. I fell down at my husband’s feet like an uprooted tree. He gently lifted me up and spoke to me softly.

    “Vara, I am always there for you. You are a very shrewd woman. You will learn to drive soon and you will never have any mishap. But if something happens there is no need to fear. I have been thinking of the very concept of risk, of late.

    “Ships are absolutely safe if they are anchored in the harbour. But they are not made for that. Now at the fag end of my career I have understood that the greatest risk in life is not taking any risk at all. So go ahead, dear. Do whatever you want. I am with you.”

    I buried my face in his hairy chest and cried for a pretty long time.

    My husband’s turnaround boosted my morale tremendously. I got the learners licence and started taking driving lessons. My driving was not without its dangers and difficulties.

    The first time I drove alone I saw a car coming behind me in the rear view mirror. I became as nervous as the squirrel’s tail. Anxiously I kept reminding myself where the accelerator and brakes were located. I veered over to the side to allow the car to pass.

    I had climbed up the payment frightening a few pedestrians who were running for cover. Then I realised that in my anxiety I was still accelerating the vehicle even while applying the brakes. So the vehicle would not stop so easily. I released the accelerator, switched off the engine and walked the vehicle to my destination.

    After such initial hiccups I soon learnt the fine art of driving a two-wheeler gracefully.

    My husband came with me to buy a beautiful scooterette in shining black colour. He wrote out a cheque from his account and handed the keys to me with a flourish, ‘To Vara with love.’

    I can never describe my exhilaration when I sped past a busy road my face brimming with confidence. A youth in a bike next to me cried out to me,

    “Go for it, Aunty.”
    “I did it.” I yelled after him.

    Riding is risky, for sure. I could appreciate the risk only after I started riding on my own. Rekha was right about that, I know.
    But if we avoid all risky activities we would have to live a dull and a drab life where nothing happens or nothing matters. To me such a life is a living death.

    As I have been observing life has never ceased to surprise me. Rekha, who had not taken any risk in her life, had worked for a government bank and prefers the safest mode of transport and never goes alone any where, fell in the bathroom one day and fractured her hip.

    Guess what, I had to attend on her which I did with a glee. You know how I commuted to the hospital, taking food for Rekha, buying medicines for her and all? You are right ,in my two-wheeler.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2006
  4. Kamla

    Kamla IL Hall of Fame

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    Was a joy!

    Dear Sridhar,

    After all those serious and introspective threads, I immensely enjoyed reading your story ' Risk'. What a cute story. Your heroine is a fifty plus 'mami' with a heart of a today's college going gal. No doubt it would appeal to me immensely!!! Even the behaviour and reactions of her husband dear comes across as very familiar to me! It is totally a different matter that I do not share her enthusiasm for two wheeling in Madras roads, I am a coward! But hey, hats off to her. What's life if you cannot have small dreams ( risky dreams?!) and not want to realise them. A nice Saturday treat Sridhar...was fun to read.
    These are days where Hemamalinis and Revathys are looking more attractive and glamourous in Mother's roles than the heroines themselves! Times are changing and a nice time for those who are young at heart. Thank goodness:)

    L, Kamla
     
  5. varalotti

    varalotti IL Hall of Fame

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    I am relieved, Kamla

    Dear Kamla,
    To a mother all her children are lovable and adorable. To a writer his stories are his children and he would like to abandon any of them.
    This story was rejected right, left and centre by the magazines around and I presume that the only reason is that the mags want to have a young damsel as a heroine so that their artist can provocative pictures.
    But I love this story very much as I am thoroughly convinced that being young does not have to with irrelevant chronological details like the date of birth.
    The husband again is a typical executive to whom wife is everything and wife is nothing. Basically good at heart, and with a heart full of love, the husband does hurt his wife but at the right time takes a viswaroopam in his love and shows that his wife is dearer to him than even his son.
    I am relieved because the post starts with the good omen of receiving your certification.
    Thanks Kamla.
    regards,
    sridhar
     
  6. Chitvish

    Chitvish Moderator IL Hall of Fame

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    I loved this one, Sridhar !

    Well, unless you do, it is not going to happen ! It is normal to be bold to take a risk when you are young; but it is maturity which helps you to decide whether you can take a risk, when the age is advanced.

    All that you want, all that you cherish depends on you taking a risk. I am sure Vara would have been aware that it will require a great effort on her part to learn to drive a two-wheeler at 50. Well, she was determined, no doubt, so would not leave a stone unturned to perfect it !

    You are right, Sridhar. Husbands generally love to say a quick “ no” for any request – but like Vara, we learn to tackle them over the years and we do know how to get the right support at the right time.

    This Dil is a typical modern day girl, can’t help saying ! I loved your expression “ she has the personality of a dial-tone” ! She says

    “My suggestion is why don’t we sweet-talk her into consulting a psychiatrist. May be a few months’ stay at an asylum might cure her of such foolish whims. I think your mother has become senile. "


    There are a few DILs ( Please, I am not generalising) who wait to pass a remark at the drop of a hat, if it concerns the MIL. Well, we modern day MILs are ready to ignore these “ prattles”, attributing them to their immaturity in Human Relationship ! They may be H R managers in offices, but they fail miserably in domestic H R, because of preconceived notions. We, MILs have not done courses in H R, but are practically good at it.


    You said it well again – Vara commutes in her bike, to help out Rekha. Serves Rekha right !!

    Let me conclude with what I tell myself, everyday:
    I can.
    I know I want to…
    I can.
    I know I have to…
    I can.
    Yes !
    I can.

    Love & regards,
    Chithra.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2006
  7. preetho

    preetho New IL'ite

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    Hi Vara,

    I do not know how old you are.........probably around the age of my mother........... I appreciate your efforts and as you said, life is what you make out of it......not what it offers to you.........great ...........keep vvvrrrrrooooooommmmmm ing in your black two wheeler.
     
  8. varalotti

    varalotti IL Hall of Fame

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    Welcome to IL, Preetho!

    Dear Preetho,

    Welcome to this wonderful site. I saw that you joined only today. You have taken a nice decision.

    Now to set the record straight, Vara, is a fictional character created by me. I am Varalotti, a CA and a writer.

    I wrote the story in first person so that it will have the right impact.

    sridhar
     
  9. Vandhana

    Vandhana Silver IL'ite

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    Dear Sridhar,

    I had a great time reading the story. Was busy out shopping the whole day and could not get back to you earlie.
    But yes I hope to be Vara too when i get to that age ( which is a loooooooooooooooooooooooooooog time away.) Great story. And yes, hubbys reactions is typical, but i think Like MS C said, they can be brought around.
    Waiting to read your next one now.

    Vandhana
     
  10. meenu

    meenu Bronze IL'ite

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    bold decision

    Dear Varalotti,
    I loved this simple story of yours perhaps baceause I can identify with your heroine. she mustbe my age i guess. After settling children i am on the brink of taking up a part time job as ihas something to do with the subject i studied. Vara has helped me decide,.
    Regards,
    Meenu
     

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