MARRIAGE AND BIRTH OF A SON
The year was 1952. I had been in the Postal Department for one year. By this time my parents and my youngest brother had joined me at Madras. The younger brother was at Palani where he was working in a ration shop on a meagre salary even by the standards of those days. We lived in modest lodgings belonging to one of my father’s cousins. The cousin’s family also stayed in a separate wing of the same building.
I was at the VPP delivery counter of Madras GPO. Two strangers came to see me and introduced themselves. One of them was from my village. The other one was from Madras. He was a distant relative of my future wife. They had come with a marriage proposal. They asked me what I thought of it. I asked them to talk to my parents. That was the first sign I got that someone was willing to give his daughter to me. The girl was from my own village. At that time her family ( except her father) was in Bangalore and her father was in Bombay. My parents knew the family. They had been financially well off but of late they had sold off their assets to pay off creditors.
My maternal uncle had four daughters. The second one was four years younger than I. His wife had hoped that I would marry her second daughter. But my mother was opposed to it. She did not like this sister-in-law of hers as I have already said. Therefore my parents were in favour of the marriage proposal brought by the above gentlemen. The elders of the two families agreed that they would go ahead and solemnise the marriage. No one consulted me. I also did not bother and went along with the decision. My mother and I traveled to Bangalore. The girl’s grand father and paternal uncle received us at the station. I saw the girl and thought that she was taller than I. My mother assured me that she was not.. She was good looking if not a beauty. She was 18 at the time. One of her sisters was 10 years old and the youngest sister was 3 years. I wrote to one of the relatives of the girl explaining my financial position. On a monthly salary of Rs. 125 I had to maintain a family of five including myself, my parents and my youngest brother who was still unemployed. On top of it I am adding one more member to the family. I asked him to reconsider the proposal. But I didn’t get any response.
Finally I married the girl on the 25th of March 1953 in a simple Vedic ceremony at a modest marriage hall in the Cantonment area of Bangalore. The marriage was attended by close relatives. My father’s cousin and his wife with whom I was staying in Madras also attended the marriage. My parents left Bangalore after the marriage. My maternal uncle’s eldest daughter who had come for the marriage also left with them. From the railway station they had taken a cab to reach home. When they reached home my uncle’s daughter forgot to take her suitcase from the luggage compartment. She lost all her saris and other clothes. My father bought a few saris for her.
My wife and I reached Madras after a couple of days. Some one had come to the station to receive us. We hired a cab and reached home. I did not know what dreams my wife had about her married life but reality must have shattered her dreams. The accommodation we had in Madras was only one room with a small kitchen attached to it. Adjacent to this was another room which was for common use by us and the family of my father’s cousin. The cousin’s family also had a small room with a kitchen attached to it, similar to ours, on the other side of the common room.. There was an open courtyard outside the kitchen which was also shared by the two families. There was a room near the front door at the far end of the courtyard which was used by the cousin’s family as a bed room. There was a makeshift structure covered with tin sheets which could be used for bathing purposes. Water for bathing had to be drawn from a well in the backyard. My wife and I used the small room next to the kitchen as a bed room. The common room was used as the bed room by my parents during the night. For drinking water we had to depend on the neighbour who, incidentally , was a distant relative of my wife.
I gave my entire salary or Rs.125 to my father. He used to balance the budget without running into debts. He had to think twice before spending each rupee. We used to have coffee in the morning. Father used to buy tea in small packets each time we wanted to make tea for the family. Similar was the case with pappad and other such items used only occasionally. Only rice, dal, sugar, oil and spices were bought to meet a month’s requirement. I couldn’t take my wife out to the beach or park without getting the permission of my parents. If I wanted to take her to the cinema I had to get permission and money for the tickets. Naturally my wife would have been grossly disappointed but she did not give any inkling of such disappointment to others.
One of the gentlemen who had come to see me at Madras GPO was running a hotel at Cuddapah. He gave my next brother a job in the hotel. For the last brother I got a job in the Khadi Department of Madras through the influence of one of my colleagues at Madras GPO who was like an adopted son to the City Khadi Officer, Madras. In fact I had also helped the Khadi office in translating some letters in Hindi into Tamil and vice versa. Though the remuneration my brothers got was small it was better than having no job at all.
I got back to office and pursued my study of Hindi literature and also prepared for the P&T Accountants’ Service Examination. My wife had adjusted herself to her new surroundings.
It was 1954 when my wife conceived. My father-in-law was in Bombay and the rest of the family was staying at Bangalore. The custom those days was for the girls to have their delivery at their parents’ home. I therefore left her with my mother-in-law at Bangalore. My wife gave birth to our first child in 1954 at Bowring Hospital in Bangalore. It was a healthy baby with a fair complexion. I was not present there at the time. A day after the birth, the baby turned blue and died in the hospital. It was winter which, those days, used to be very cold in Bangalore. Perhaps the baby was exposed to the cold and could not survive. No one in the hospital would tell the reason to my mother-in-law.
Our second son was born in March 1956. In my mother-in-law’s opinion our first child had died because of the negligence of the hospital staff who did not protect the baby from the cold. This time she engaged a midwife who delivered my wife of a baby boy. Soon after birth the boy developed whooping cough. He would go out of breath with continuous coughing. My mother-in-law and my wife were gripped with the fear of losing this child also. They prayed to all the gods in the Hindu pantheon and also at Mother Mary’s Church at Bangalore. The child was taken to a doctor who asked his name to write out the prescription. My mother-in-law told him that he had not yet been given a name. The doctor wrote down ‘Balaram’ in the prescription to denote that he would be as strong as Balaram who was the elder brother of Krishna in Hindu mythology. Perhaps God willed it so, the child miraculously recovered and regained his normal health. Every one breathed a sigh of relief.
My wife and child came to Madras when the latter was about four months old. Now my parents looked after the child by turns and my wife helped in the household chores. I continued to focus on my studies for the departmental examinations and also on the study of Hindi literature. By this time the cousin’s family had shifted to some other accommodation. We had more living space now and my wife and I were able to use the room near the front door as our bed room.