Wednesday, December 19, 2012

M.D. Narayana Iyer: Chapter 6

Widowhood in the 1930s meant living death for a woman. A widow was shunned on auspicious occasions, and even in public. She was considered a curse, and people avoided looking at hear fearing the curse would strike them as well. A widow was expected to shave her head, cover her shaven head, and wear no blouse. Her place was in the kitchen, eating food left over by others, reading holy books, and praying that in the next life at least, fate would treat her more favourably. All striking examples of man’s inhumanity to man.

For Appa, life came to standstill emotionally. Physically, life had to go on. The sun rose and set. Spring turned to summer. Monsoons turned to autumn, winter, and then back to spring again. One had to eat, bathe, dress and carry on with day-to-day activities. Ankichi’s pregnancy advanced and at the appointed time, alive, normal baby girl was born.

Slowly, Appa started thinking about his daughter’s future. He felt that even though he had fallen flat on his face, what was the necessity to remain there? The correct thing would be to get up and go on with life. He made up his mind that in no way would he let his daughter feel that her life was over. She would lead a full life and his granddaughter would not feel the absence of a father. He would be the proxy father to the child. It took tremendous inner strength to come to this decision.

He decided that Ankichi should re-join college.

Hell broke loose. A Brahmin widow from a respectable family going to college to study?! It was unheard of. It would be a slur on the entire Brahmin community. Many important people had their daughters widowed at a young age. They had all accepted their fate humbly. Nobody had attempted to fight back. Some of the most vituperative comments were from close family.

But Appa stood firm like a rock. “If the Brahmin community is going to ostracize me for this, let it”, was his comment. Several people went to him and personally asked him to reconsider his decision. But Appa was adamant. His only aim was to give his daughter a fresh lease on life. Of course, he had tremendous support as well. At this point, I have to mention one person in particular, who gave Appa and Ankichi great moral support, and that was Dr. Shankaramba, who later became a top gynaecologist in Bangalore.

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