CHAPTER – 18
A PLEASANT SURPRISE?
It was wartime. The threat of invasion hung in the air.I wished to do my bit of social service. I got trained in First Aid and in Air Raid Precautions by the St John’s Ambulance brigade attached to my Office. I wore the uniform of the Brigade; two days in the week I attended Office also in that uniform.
Orders were issued for evacuation, since Madras, as a target for the enemy, was no longer considered safe, My office shifted to Coimbatore. As I could not proceed there at once, I took leave for six months, as already stated. Since a ban had been imposed on exports, the lungi business was a bit slack. The cloth trade, however, was brisk.
When the period of leave was over and could not be extended, I went alone to Coimbatore and joined duty. Two months passed. My health was affected. Hotel food did not agree with me. I wrote about it to my wife. She offered to come and asked me to take her there at once, after fixing up quarters somewhere there.
I rented a room in a house in the Fort area and started for Guduvancheri, taking three days, leave.
At the cloth shop, there had been some mismanagement. I reorganized the business a little and left for Coimbatore with my wife. Our stay there was short; a matter of just a few months. We discussed and finalized the marriage proposal there itself. My mother could not bear separation from me. So I applied for leave again and returned to Guduvancheri. Two establishments, one with my mother and others at Guduvancheri and the other with my wife and myself at Coimbatore had been quite a botheration. It had also proved a drain on my resources. The problem solved itself with the re-transfer of the Office to Madras. We set about arranging for the wedding. immediately after our return to Guduvancheri. I and my wife had come to an agreement about the marriage, but we had not obtained her father’s consent to this. We went to Mylapore for that. I suggested to my wife that we should postpone the idea of marriage if her father did not agree. “That is my lookout,” she said and added, “Even if he happens to be against it, we will go ahead with the marriage. Pacifying him, after the event will be my job”. When we approached my father in law for the permission, he said laconically, “Do as you please”. I think that my wife had already discussed the matter with him.
The bride belonged to the neighboring village of Nandivaram. It was my wife who had taken the initiative in choosing the bride.
I conformed to custom and went to see the bride myself. When I tried to envisage my own married life ahead, a veritable tempest began to blow within me.
I regretted the bitter necessity of sharing my life with a new woman. My wife and myself understood each other and except for the duration of my short stay at Coimbatore, we had never lived apart.
Now, on account of this second marriage, she would have to withdraw herself at least partially from my life. I
deplored that necessity.
A day was fixed for the wedding. A day had also been chosen before that, for the purchase of gold to be entrusted to a goldsmith for making the Thali, the sacred wedding emblem.
It so happened I was not in town that day. When I returned in the evening, my wife said, “You said, didn’t you, that you would be buying gold today and handing it over to the goldsmith? As you were not here at the proper time, I myself sent for the goldsmith and gave the gold to him”. I noted the pleasure and the satisfaction in her tone as she said that.
I wondered how she had managed. I knew she did not have with her either gold or the cash needed.