“Sudha”, that was her name. I met her when was in 7th grade. She was in the same grade, but was in a different division. We didn’t have much in common. She is just an average person, not that great looking either! But she was gem of a character. It showed even at that tender age. Sometimes, my pride or vanity even tried to hide my friendship with her from my other friends.
But Sudha kind of worshiped me. In my heart, I knew she was my best friend at that time. Both of us had certain things in common, like reading was our main hobby. We were budding writers. I was not that great, still she complimented me always, even if there was nothing special about my writings. As a matter of fact, I knew this truth, but still I enjoyed her praises. She was from a Nair family. Her family lived in a small rented house. There was no yard or fence for that house. The Verandah of the house was open to the main road. Transport buses, cars, cycle rickshaws roamed in that main road. They didn’t have much privacy from the public. Her mother was a pretty woman, very thin, looked tired. From the look of her, she may be from a good family. Sudha was the eldest and she had one sister & a brother. Remaining years in the School and one year in College we studied together. Her father was also thin and he had a graying Mustache which was very common among Police men at that time.
When Sudha was in 9th, her father was suspended from Police Force. The reason was the evidence stuff collected from some thief disappeared from the Police Station. Sudha’s family, moved from that rented home to a place about 10 miles away from my hometown, since they couldn’t afford the rent. We were in the same College for a year. But after that we never got a chance to see each other for the next 6 years, since I went to a different College.
After my graduation, I started to apply for jobs, but that was the worst time for fresh Engineers. Jobs were scarce. My father didn’t want me to move to faraway places for a job, so I didn’t apply to many vacancies. I didn’t have any money with me, other than some pocket money I got from my mother whenever I asked her. Then, my marriage was fixed. That was the normal thing to do. After studies, parents find a suitable match and girl gets married. I thought of Sudha and searched through my old autographs in College & found her address and sent an invitation with a small note asking her to come to my house any day before the marriage, if she could not attend the marriage.
One week before the marriage, I was shopping for my wedding Sari in a shop in the town. My mother and sister-in-law were with me.
Somebody from the back closed my eyes.
“Tell who it is”
I did recognize her voice. Sudha… Sudha…
I was very happy to see her. She has grown up to a young woman. She was wearing a cheap off-white Sari with small blue flowers all over it. She was simple but looked elegant. She was very happy to see me. “The bus stopped in front of this shop and from here I was going to walk to your house. Then I saw you. What a luck!”
I was no more interested in shopping, as Sudha was briefing me about what happened in her life in the last 6 years. Her father’s suspension ruined their family and he was never cleared from the accusations. They were living in a small hut like house which was built in three cents of property Sudha’s mother got from her family. There was not enough money for anything. Sudha was sent to Trivandrum to stay with her Uncle’s family. Her life at Uncle’s house was also not that pleasant. She was treated as a maid there. But she didn’t mind that. But she completed privately “Vidvan” a diploma in Hindi language. Now she was staying with her parents. She had started applying for job, but so far no luck… She didn’t get a job yet.
Finally, two Saris were selected by my mother as wedding Saris. At that time for Rs.100 a Pattu Sari can be bought. The Saris selected for the wedding was Rs.2500 and Rs.5000. I had to select one of them. My heart was aching listening to Sudha’s story. I didn’t want to spend too much money for a Sari. So I selected the less evil, the one of Rs.2500. Even spending that much money for a wedding Sari, I felt it like a waste. Wedding happens only once, so it is not an extravaganza, I consoled myself. I persuaded Sudha to have lunch with me at my home. She obliged.
We sat for the lunch. She had a big smile on her face all the time. She had a very beautiful smile. We were talking non-stop. My mother and others were also listening to our conversation. Everybody was happy to see our excitement.
I asked her to stay till evening. She tried to explain to me what kind of rumor it could create in the neighborhood if a young girl like her reached home late at night, in a small village like hers.
I saw a small purse in Sudha’s hands.
“Let me see that. It is very pretty..” I asked her.
“Do you like it? I don’t have anything to give you for your wedding… You can have it, if you like.” Sudha was very anxious when she said that.
I was just pretending that I liked it.
“Let me see what is inside.” I showed extra enthusiasm.
I opened the bag. There were few coins & a dirty note of Rs.10.
I felt guilty for Rs.2500 I had to spend for the wedding Sari, when I saw the contents of that purse. I didn’t have much money with me. I took whatever I had in my purse & put in her bag. I made sure that Sudha didn’t see me putting the money in her bag. I knew her very well. She was too proud and I knew that she wouldn’t take any donation from anybody. When she left, we hugged. She wished me happy married life. I could see her eyes welled up when she left.
It was a Monday. Next Monday was my marriage. After the marriage, I had to stay in my husband’s house till Thursday. When we came back to my house on Thursday, we were welcomed with traditional lighted “Nilavilakku” and a Pot full of water. Everybody was very happy to see us. There was even a small fireworks staged by my nephews. It was fun.
After the formalities, when everybody was settled down, my mother brought an old Newspaper. There I saw the news.
Family suicide using Paramour. That was the headline.
“Two daughters died. Son and the Father are at the Hospital in serious condition.” Two columns described all about that suicide attempt. It was Sudha & her sister who died. The family was troubled by not having enough money even for food for a long time. That particular day, there was some kind of fight between the father & the daughter. Sudha suggested suicide & took Paramour first, her sister & brother followed. After seeing this, father also took Paramour. Mother was not at home when all this happened. Very next day Sudha got an appointment letter. But she had already left this world without waiting for it. What a tragedy…
I often wondered whether that Rs.2500 I spent for my wedding Sari would have saved that whole family! What a waste!