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Tales from Jillellamudi for children – 14

Magazine : Mother of All
Language : English
Volume Number : 5
Month : July
Issue Number : 3
Year : 2006


Dear Sweet Children,

We had last left Amma in the village Mannava in the company of her relatives who assembled to perform the first annual death ceremony of her mother Rangamma. Amma was in her sixth year. Her father Seethapathi had gone through one grueling year as a forlorn widower. He had a son by name. Raghava Rao, ten years senior to Amma. He grew to be a wayward youngster holding out little or no promise for a bright future. He was the despair of his mother Rangamma who had already lost a good number of his juniors in their infancy. It was an unbearable jolt for her in her young age. Amma however emerged as the last ray of hope.

Let us for a moment turn to Tenali where Rangamma’s mother Janakamma lived with her husband. After the death of Rangamma, the erstwhile good-will between Janakamma and her son-in-law Seethapathi dwindled. Janakamma did not entertain any love or interest for Rangamma’s children either. Hence Ammal. and Raghava Rao ceased to be on intimate terms with Janakamma. It was undeniably a sad development that a petty minded Janakamma chose to distance herself from the two youngsters.

But providentially, two benevolent characters – Mariammal thatamma and Chidambara Rao rose to the occasion to take total charge of a beleaguered Seethapati. Maridamma thathamma, a highly revered elderly lady of the family and a sister of Seethapathi’s father, was deeply attached to Amma. She tenderly looked after Amma and she could not afford to stay away from Amma even for a little while. Maridamma was herself an aged widow with no encumbrances of her own, having been widowed when she was six years old. That was her rare pathetic tale. I gave you, dear children, a detailed account of hers in an earlier episode. Her elder sister Narasamma was the mother of Chidambara Rao. He was also very much attached to Amma. Maridamma was a paragon of virtue and piety, and Chidambara Rao a man of deep learning. He was a prosperous advocate also. Thus Amma was very carefully looked after both by Maridamma thatamma and Chidambara Rao to make abundant amends for the absence of her mother Rangamma.


Pressure was now mounting on Seethapathi to fill the gap and marry again. He was about forty years old. He was unwilling to do so out of understandable fright that he might have to face a repetition of devastating domestic problems. He felt he had to primarily look after an angel of a daughter and an irresponsible son. It looked as though they were seated on two opposite poles which he had to successfully deal with. Maridamma thathamma was worried that if Seethapathi did not marry again, she had to continue to shoulder his problems as a hapless widower. She had earlier spent all her life sharing the misery of families who were mired in similar circumstances. Which was why she herself very much prompted Seethapathi to marry again to help him out of a miserable situation. He was in a great fix. He did not want his tender daughter to have a stepmother who might subsequently ill treat her and let loose hell like any traditional stepmother. And then there was an erratic son, who, he was sure, might not react appropriately to the prospect of having a stranger as step mother under the same roof. Seethapathi was in such a mental muddle. To marry or not to marry, that was the question. The customary advice of the elderly members of the family to marry again did not weigh much with him. He feared they offered him only opportunistic advice to ultimately push him into the murky cesspool of domestic life with an unpredictable second wife, who might herself troop in with her own caravan of likes and dislikes. Seethapathi was by nature an utterly mild and readily yielding type who never anticipated life to turn sour and harsh in a flash which alas it did in his case. He was ever too good to boldly face tough challenges in life. Therefore he finally turned to Amma, his own daughter to decide for him the way out. He was sensitive enough not to pose a direct question to Amma as he felt she was too tender for the ordeal of furnishing a straight solution to the tortuous problem. Seethapathi drew her aside one sunny morning to a silent corner in Mannava and asked her to hold one of his two fingers. It is a traditional practice when one is in a dilemma to show two fingers to a child who is generally accepted to be pure, guileless and unbiased. But Amma did not straight away oblige Seethapathi. She asked him seemingly innocently to specify the purpose of his poser. Poor Seethapathi started sobbing child-like not knowing how else to clarify and make her understand. He had no straight reply to give her. He could not directly ask Amma to decide for him whether or not to marry as he was himself unable to decide. He however next held two blades of straw. Amma guessed his predicament and decided to help him out without much ado. She then promptly pulled one. Seethapathi admitted that her act confirmed the elderly advice of Maridamma thathamma that marriage was inevitable and it had to be gone through.


This is a very sensitive chapter. Amma clinched the issue by touching the symbolic straw. Seethapathi at last realized that he had no escape from a second stint and that it was decree divine that he should take another wife and swim through, like it or not.

Thus dear children, we have come to the end of an interesting, albeit sensitive chapter, that was enacted in the idyllic scenario of Mannava with Amma finally clinching the issue.

All’s well that ends well!

– (to be continued)

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