Dawn in December.
Forced to fetch a packet of milk instead of wrapping around a woolen blanket, I got up.
A small cog in the wheel of a private company if I didn’t get milk myself, no coffee.
Without a cup of hot coffee the day doesn’t start.
It’s a week since Niraja went home .Is there a woman who doesn’t long to become a mother. A divine feeling! To own it she went to her parent’s home. Syrupy news was anxiously awaited.
Slipping into a shirt I ventured out to lock the door and looked around on hearing a sound. A lady was squatting with a baby ,on a platform beside my home. In the dim light of a distant lamp I tried to see her in detail. Unkempt hair, unsteady gaze…except a torn loincloth around waist she was almost naked.
Spotting me she moved farther embracing the baby tightly. Her eyes reflected her fear.
Her slender body shivered in cold breeze. Holding the unclad baby close to her bosom, she was struggling to keep him warm. Some inconsiderate blighter might have made her a mother.
That a young lady stood naked in the street, was not a matter of shame for her but for the society!
Picking up one of my wife’s saris, I locked the door. As I offered it she moved further away.
I went a little closer. Screaming loudly she jumped down looking for stones to pelt.
Keeping the sari on the platform I went my way. On my return I noticed neither her, nor the sari.
Satisfied that I could help a lady cover her nakedness, I reached office.
I received a letter from my mother during lunch hour.
“Dear Babu! Forget the past. I welcome you and my daughter-in-law.”
Tenth letter from her since my marriage. After father’s demise she shouldered entire responsibility. When I was busy job-hunting ,she pressurized me to marry her niece. I made it clear that Niraja, who I loved, would be my wife.
Ensuing bitterness estranged us. I got a job and married Niraja.
As usual torn pieces of the letter littered the dustbin.
After fourdays, while I was reaching home after supper in a hotel, I saw the lady sitting at the base of peepal tree. Except a loincloth around waist, she was naked. Must have thrown away the sari.
Did she know how to wrap it?
How about the baby? I scanned around.
Beside her, he was fast asleep. Same sari. Folded nicely and wrapped around the baby like a blanket.
I was angry for a split-second. Realization dawned, then. Covering her baby in cold winter acquired priority over covering her naked bosom.
She looked an embodiment of sublimity! Supreme sacrifice and concern for the baby!
My mother gave me birth and everything, sublimating as camphor.
Immediately, I applied for leave to reach my village to bring home my mother.
[Translation of a Telugu short story written by Saleem]
Syed Saleem is a poet and fiction writer in Telugu.He won several awards and honours for his creative work. He was selected for Kendra Sahitya Academi Award for his Telugu novel Kaaluthunna Poolathota. The story chosen here is from Rani Gaari Kathalu, a novel in the form of sequential stories, an experiment that was highly successful. He is a high ranking official in Income Tax department.