NO TURNING BACK
Swaminathan had never once seen his father talk to his mother in loving words. He takes a vow that he would be a loving father to his children. But as Fate would have it, many years later, he gets married to Shanthi, who turns out to be of a nit-picking character. He tries to change himself by being very submissive to her for he wished that his daughter – his little princess – should grow up in a peaceful atmosphere, bereft of parent rivalry.
However, being a henpecked husband, gets him no where ! One fine day, a malicious act on his wife’s part, makes him take a drastic decision. He leaves the house, without as much as a word to anyone. Six years later, when a family friend bumps into him and expresses his shock at the life he his leading, Swaminathan justifies his action. He convinces him that he had to do this for the sake of his little princess. Is swaminathan’s action justified?
No Turning Back - First Chapter
Ramanathan gingerly opened the cover and took out a handful of puffed rice flakes. Absent mindedly he started dropping them little by little into the water. He saw the fishes gather up around it. They nibbled at the rice flakes and greedily gobbled them up. He had met the man before. His face seemed to be very familiar. But he could not recall his name nor did he have any cue as to where he had met him. Racking his brains about the man he had just seen, Ramanathan continued scattering the rice flakes until he realized that the cover was empty.
Ramanathan was Fifty Five years old. After his voluntary retirement, he spent his time by doing social service. This gave him peace of mind and a sense of fulfillment in life. Slowly, the news about his helping nature got around and people came to him and confessed their problems. Ramanathan was quick to offer his valuable advice and suggestions to them. At times, he even went out of his way to find a solution to their woes ; be it obtaining a seat in a school or college, finding a suitable marriage alliance for their children, settlement of disputes between spouses or bringing to end the petty quarrels on the streets either between children or the grownups. When people lauded him for his philanthrophic activities, he would simply say, “to God be the praise. I am but an instrument of His !”
In the beginning of every New Year, Ramanathan went on a short pilgrimage to obtain the blessings of God. This year, he came to Kanchipuram. He had finished his visit to all the temples and finally landed up in the Kacchapaeswarar Temple. At the entrance there is a small Vinayaga Temple. Ramanathan entered the temple to obtain the blessings of Lord Vinayaga. He stood there among the crowd praying as the young priest was chanting the mantras. And when at last Ramanathan received the prasad from the priest, he was startled. The face of the man looked very familiar and he at once realised he had met him earlier. But only Ramanathan was not sure, where he had met him. Being Sankata Chaturthi, the temple was very crowded and the man was rather busy. Wishing to clear his doubts later on, Ramanathan decided to come round the Sanctum Sanctorum. After making three rounds, he felt tired and hence sat down on the steps of the cool water tank at the entrance of the temple.
While he kept brooding about the familiar face, he cursed his poor memory, which was of late, failing him and messing up his life. He decided, it was high time that he did something about it. But right now, his curiosity got the better of him and he was bent upon knowing more about the priest. He stood up and started walking slowly in his direction.
No Turning Back - second chapter
Ramanathan waited patiently for the crowd to disperse. At last, when he found the priest alone, he went up to him and said, “your face seems to be very familiar to me. I remember having met you somewhere. Are you from Chennai ?” Astonished that somebody recognised him, the priest nodded his head and said, “I am from Baskara Street in West Mambalam.”
Ramanathan’s face brightened up and he continued, “I live in the adjoining street of yours. And by the way, may I know your name please ?”
Irked by the oldman’s nosiness, the priest said, “My name is Swaminathan.”
With this curt reply, he made a move from there to waive camphour to God for the people who had just entered the temple.
Creasing up his forehead, Ramanathan continued, “are you by any chance Shanthi’s husband ?”
Jolted by his question, Swaminathan retreated his steps.
“Yes, of course ! But how do you know that ?” He asked with bewilderment.
Ramanathan was excited. For once, his memory has not let him down. Beaming with a smile, he said, “well, I know Shanthi very well. She used to come to me for Maths Tuition. I also attended your marriage function and I remember Shanthi having introduced me to you . Perhaps you might have forgotten it!”
Swaminathan stood there grinning sheepishly, anticipating his next question, when the old man continued, “are you not staying with your family ?”
At first, Swaminathan did not appreciate the old man’s probing nature. But when he told him that he knew his wife too well, he was eager to strike a conversation with him. He was rather amazed with the keen interest the old man evinced in him and so he blurted out rather coyly, “well, I am no more staying with her. We could not get along with each other and I have left her for good six years back!”
Ramanathan was disappointed to hear this. It is only now that things were becoming clear as daylight to him. For whenever he had chanced to meet Shanthi on the way, he had found her in a depressed mood. She was not her usual self. And whenever he had enquired about her husband, she would simply say that he was doing fine. After this, she would either try to change the subject or make an attempt to leave. Perplexed as to what could be the misunderstanding that had cropped up between the couple that has resulted in their separation, Ramanathan asked, “would you care to tell me the reasons for your leaving her ?”
Swaminathan was silent.
Ramanathan was quick to notice the hestitation on his face and he said, “hope you are not upset about my prying you with questions. Since I know Shanthi very well, I am just anxious to know the cause of your separation.”
A small crowd had already gathered there and Swaminathan excused himself, “I am afraid this is not the right place to talk about it. If you don’t mind, could you please meet me tonight. I would rather be too willing to open out my heart to you then.”
Ramanathan took out a small sheet of paper and jotted down his address and promised to visit him. Here was an opportunity for him to do something good and he was too excited about it.
Swaminathan rushed inside to renew his puja and as he waived camphour to God, he wondered as to what could be God’s purpose in bringing this old man to him !
Ramanathan had in fact finished his round of temples. He had been planning to leave for Chennai immediately after visiting Kacchapaeswarar Temple. But now, he changed his mind and extended his stay in the hotel for another day. He went to his room and had a good sleep. When he woke up, it was already 7.30 p.m. He hurriedly had his dinner and started walking to Swaminathan’s house ; making sure that he had the small bit of paper in which he had noted down his address.