“Saraswathi pooja – September 26th, Tuesday” Grandpa was reading the Panchangam in his quavering voice.
Saraswathi, who was descending from her room upstairs, heard that clearly.
“Thatha, no, it appears it is not Tuesday; it appears to be Sunday. Therefore, there will not be a holiday for Circar offices. Didn’t you hear Father saying that yesterday?” Saraswathi descended and inquired of him.
Grandpa removed his glasses and placed them in the case, then spoke to his granddaughter, “Sunday? Panchangams doesn’t specify that, right? It could be one day difference, either earlier or later. Would that mean four or five days difference? No way!”
“Dont know, It is on Sunday for Government alone. Don’t you know? The central Government appointed a Sastri from a foreign country. He got three thousand five hundred rupees as his salary to provide this advice. Lucky chap!”
Saraswathi informed her Grandpa and then went to the kitchen.
Grandpa muttered to himself, “Sastri? Coming from abroad, of all people. These naughty kids must think I’m crazy.”
Saraswathi entered the kitchen as the ‘coffee shop’ was still open. Her brothers had just finished brushing their teeth and were engaged in a lively conversation, each holding a cup of coffee.
She exclaimed, “So noisy! Is this a house or a Kothaval Chavadi?” She then turned to her mother and said, “Mom, you said Saraswathi Pooja was on Tuesday, but it appears to be on Sunday instead. Thatha has already confirmed this.”
“What in the world?” her mother exclaimed as she rushed into the living room. Saraswathi couldn’t help but snicker, covering her mouth with her hand. Her brothers followed suit, eager to witness whatever was unfolding in the living room.
Do not assume that Saraswathi is only fifteen or sixteen years old. When the month of Aippasi arrives, she will have completed twenty three years of age. She will remain youthful and vibrant as she is in her eighteen. We can not say she is not super pretty; at the same time, we can’t say she is not beautiful. She has a mischievous laugh on her face and speaks with a lot of wit, tease and humor.
Her parents and grandfather were greatly concerned about her marriage prospects. They looked for suitable matches, not only from Chennai Rajdhani but also from cities like Bombay, Calcutta, and Delhi, yet they were still unable to find a suitable partner for her.
Her grandfather often calls her “My girl, come here!”. Saraswathi responds with a smile and goes to stand beside him.
“Do you have any plans to get married, at least by this year or not?”
Saraswathi chuckled and said, “I’m always ready!”
Grandfather sighed, saying, “You’re ready, but the auspicious time for the wedding is being delayed”. It is sad to see Saraswathi like this. She is overwhelmed with disappointment about the postponement of her marriage. Despite her unhappiness, she’s trying to mask it with jokes and laughter.
One evening, close to 7 o’clock, Saraswathi lit the lamp and made her way upstairs with her books in hand. Her grandfather called out to her, “Sarasoo!”
When she spun around to face him, he said, “Sarasu, didn’t I tell you there was a potential groom in Madurai? I had Kalyana Raman investigate him, and he sent this letter to me. Have a look.” With that, he handed her the letter before walking away.
Saraswathi’s face was flushed with both shyness and anger when she received the letter. Kalyana Raman had been the son of a registrar who had lived in the house across from her for quite some time. He had been studying in law school for the past three years. Both families had been close during that time. He had wanted to marry Saraswathi and she had reciprocated the feeling. There had even been talks of marriage. Saraswathi had just finished her intermediate exams and said that she would marry him in two years as she intended to pursue a B.A. degree. She had expected Kalyana Raman to wait for her during that time. But, if it was a question of love between them, Kalyana Raman could have waited not just two years, but even five. However, his parents were not willing to agree to that and began looking for other brides. As Kalyana Raman finished his exams, his family moved to Madurai to start his own law firm.
When she realized he had sent a letter to her grandfather, she was utterly infuriated. Offended by his retort, she thought to herself, “What kind of man behaves like this? He can’t even wait two years for a woman!” With that, she ripped up his letter and threw it in the bin.
That day was the day of Saraswathi Pooja.
Yes; as her Grandpa confirmed by consulting his Panchangam, the event arrived on September 26th, a Tuesday without fail.
In regards to Saraswathi’s house, the festival not only came on its own, but also brought Kalyana Raman with it.
After the dawn, Saraswathi descended the stairs and was taken aback by the sight of the luggage and bed in her living room. Kalyana Raman appeared the next moment. Out of courtesy Saraswathi asked, “When did you arrive?”. She then hurried to the backyard, her mind filled with thoughts ‘What more to talk with someone who can not wait for just two years for her?’.
She observed her grandfather beaming with joy that day, though the reason remained a mystery to her. He thought ‘As these girls grow older, they became less inclined to behave well. She had barely uttered two words in the morning before disappearing upstairs, not even bothering to come downstairs to talk to him’.
It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon when Kalyana Raman and Saraswathi met each other upstairs.
Kalyana Raman asked, “Are you angry with me? Is that why you won’t even speak to me?”
“I’m not upset with anyone, so why would I talk to you? So I’m just staying quiet!”
“Did you read my letter? Thatha said he handed it to you!”
Saraswathi asked, “Do I have enough time without any tasks, to read whatever the letter delivered here? You might have written about the groom in Madurai. That’s ok. What about your wife? Is she fine? Any kids…?” before her question trailed off.
Kalyana Raman burst into a loud laugher.
Kalyana Raman exclaimed, “You’re so pure and innocent, I’ve never seen anyone like you! Wife? Kids? I never got married to any one! I was holding out for you and came all this way to marry you. I wrote it all in that letter!”
Saraswathi remained quiet as she crouched down and began to piece together the torn letter to read its contents.
Saroja Ramamurthy (July 27, 1921 – August 8, 1991) was a modern Tamil writer and Gandhian. She wrote short stories and novels. Her books were nationalized by the Tamil Nadu government. This story is from her nationalized short story collection.
I translated it for Blogchatter’s WRITE A PAGE A DAY 2023 campaign.