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By Vatsayayana Kumari 250x141

 

 

 

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It all began a year ago on a Saturday.

I went to see a movie with two friends, both junior executives like me in a tea packing company in Union place, in Colombo, Sri Lanka. After the movie, we went to a bar and had one too many. It was nearing midnight, so I took a cab to reach my home in Dehiwela.

My mother opened the door instead of Kusuma, our 27-year-old servant woman.

“Where is Kusuma Akka?” I asked her.

Since Kusuma was three years older than me, I called her Akka (elder sister).

“She has gone to her village,” my mother replied. She closed the front door. “She went in the evening by bus to Avissawela. She would have reached her home by now,” she said.

As I was about to enter my room, my mother grabbed my hand and stopped me.

Puthaa, come sit. I want to talk to you,” she said pointing to the sofa in the hall.

My name is Premaratne, but my parents and relatives call me ‘Puthaa‘ meaning son in Sinhalese.

I sat on the sofa and my mother sat beside me. She looked worried.

Punchi has come,” she said.

My mother has three younger sisters, and 32-year-old Charulatha was the youngest, so we called her ‘Punchi’ meaning small in Sinhalese.

Punchii was married to Dharmasena. I never liked him. He had a stern face and was forever grumbling. There was no rapport between him and me. I wondered how my aunt fell in love with him. They lived in Kandy, the hill-capital of Sri Lanka. Whenever they came down to Colombo, they occupied my room and I slept on the sofa in the hall. It was almost six months since I had seen her last.

Puthaa, she has come alone. Dharma wants to divorce her,” she said.

I was shocked and furious.

“What? Does he want to divorce her after ten years of marriage?” I asked.

“Yeah,” my mother replied.

“Is he sleeping with any other woman?”

“I asked Punchi that. But she says that he does not,” replied my mother. “And she is sure of it, though I doubt it.”

“Then why does he want to divorce her?”

“Since she has not borne a child, though they got married nine years ago, his mother is accusing Punchi for being barren,” my mother said.

“Did they see a doctor?” I asked.

“No. When Punchi suggested that, her mother-in-law had shouted at her.”

“I never liked him,” I said. “She fell in love with him, isn’t it? What did she find in him to get married to that bastard?”

“All of us are asking the same question. She says that he is drinking more than ever; and recently had started beating her! Now,, he comes home fully drunk, and fucks her in the mouth like a savage. If she objects, he beats her,” mother said.

I was astonished to hear words that she would normally not utter in my presence.

“Even last night, he had beaten Punchi with his belt.” Mother was furious. “I’ll ask Punchi to show  the welts to you.”

“I will kill that bastard!” I shouted.

Puthaa, please. Don’t raise your voice and wake up your father,” my mother implored.

“Now what are we to do?” I asked angrily.

Crying Woman (2) (Small)

“I tried to pacify her. But she’s been crying from the time she arrived.”

“What are you going to do about the divorce?”

Mother frowned. “I’m worried about that too.”

“I think it is a disguised blessing. We should be happy for that bastard himself has initiated the move for the divorce. Now, everyone can be happy if he divorces her. Isn’t it?” I asked.

“What will the people say?” asked my mother.

“Hang the people! She can marry another good guy,” I suggested.

“She is now thirty-two. Do you think anyone will come forward to marry a divorcee?”

“Then what are we to do?”

My mother smiled enigmatically.

“I love my little sister. All I want is her happiness.”

“But how can she be happy with this divorce looming over her head?”

“She is going to stay here with us for sometime,” she said.

“Yes. Let her stay with us. I will look after her as long as I live,” I said. I loved my youngest aunt more than her other married sisters.

“Don’t sleep in the hall. Share your room with her,” my mother said.

I never expected my mother would suggest that. But I did not object.

“I don’t want others to know that you are sharing the room with Punchi, especially, the servant woman. That’s why I packed her off to her village.”

Ammé, there is only one bed,” I said.

“Well, that bed is large enough for both of you,” she said with a twinkle in her eye and wisp of a smile.

I was perturbed. I was apprehensive that my father would object.

“What will thaathaa say?” I asked.

“Your thaathaa and I discussed the issue. I put forward a proposal to him, but he did not agree to my suggestion. He said, ‘It’s true Punchi is young when compared to you. Though the devil in me tells me to do what you suggest. But, being older than her by many years I can never be the proper person to do your bidding. Moreover, I love her like our own daughter. Since we want to keep the solution to the problem only between you, me, and Charu, only a youngster like our Puthaa can discreetly do it.’ Then he suggested that you should share your room with Punchi, and asked me to pack off Sumana to her village.”

I did not really understand what she meant by the phrase ‘proper person to do your bidding‘, nevertheless I was glad to sleep on the same bed with my loving aunt.

“I too feel the same as your thaathaa. You should share your room with her.”

“Did Punchi agree to share the bed with me?” I asked.

“Now, that she is depressed, feels miserable and dejected, we did not ask her opinion. However, we feel that she will not object to sharing the bed with you. You will find that out for yourself when you go to your room now.”

“How can I comfort her? What am I supposed to tell her?” I asked my mother.

She smiled and said, “Puthaa, take her out to the beach, to the movies, to the zoo. Make her feel happy and become her former self. Do whatever you can. She is your aunt; my little sister. I know you love her more than anyone else. I know she trusts you and confides in you. Do what you can, to bring her out of the miserable mental state she is now in. You have our blessings. Please make my little sister happy. I beseech you, dear.”

I felt happy that I had such understanding and loving parents. I was their only son and they trusted me.

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Next  Aunt Charulatha – Part 2

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