During most of her consultations with doctors and specialists, her hospitalisations, her surgery, We were both in the service of an affluent family. I was the Personal Assistant to an honorary Social Worker, wife of an ex-M.P., who was an industrialist and group Chairman of a big spread in Chennai; and Kala was working in the company owned by my boss’ eldest son.
Kala continued her consultations and tests and when the specialists mentioned that she had to have a knee replacement which meant a lot of money, such a huge amount, that we were totally flummoxed and at a loss as how to come by such a huge sum.
By divine intervention, and with the active and generous canvassing on our behalf by people from higher places, we could come by that amount, as we started receiving the largess from various philanthropists and wellwishers. Kala’s father, who was staying with us then, also helped us with additional amounts running into tens of thousands of rupees to help us meet the ongoing expenses towards continuing medications and tests, consultations, and thefrequent reopenings of the wounds – on nearly a half dozen times thereafter. After all this savagery to her leg and muscles, the skin of her leg took on a darker complexion which took a few years to return her natural skin tone. The scars remained till her last days. When we had achieved the stipulated amount, we approached the medical specialists, and immediately a date was given for the surgery.
The surgery took place in July 1999. The invoice for the supply of the total knee implants mentioned the costs at around Forty Five Thousand Rupees. The total expenses we incurred till her last breath, would have exceeded my life’s total earnings had I been able to save my salaries without spending a penny.
Kala rested and recuperated for around two months, but she was raring to start working again. She was always diligent and staying in bed ran against her grains. She requested the doctors again and again to permit her to attend office again, which will involve long bus journey of over 50 Kms. up and another 50 Kms. down, getting in and out of the bus with the help of a small stool which she carried with her to the office, the pillion rides to the bus stop on my daughter’s bicycle, the cooking at home on top of all this.
The doctors permitted to rejoin duty but cautioned her to be vary careful about it. She was very careful and yet she had to suffer the difficulties involved, having to use her crutches all the time.
She started to attending office, and not one week passed when fate again intervened in the form of a bus accident. The bus driver swerved to avoid a speeding large vehicle coming towards them, and as the road was very narrow at that stretch what with the embankment of a lake which was around 15 feet below road level. The bus tyres lost traction and the bus took a few tumbles to settle on dry bed of the dirtied lake bed full of thorn shrubs, glass pieces etc. Two people were found dead on the spot, with many lying unconscious and a lot more bruised and wounded, with a few cases of bone fractures and other complaints.
The traffic came to a standstill and all and sundry were trying to help. In the melee many lost their possessions, some of them stolen, including Kala’s money of around a thousand rupees which she kept with her all the time for medical expense purposes. Her office people were informed and a party the office people started taking inventory of all the bus passengers. As Kala had been sitting in the very front near the driver’s seat, she had been thrown out through the broken front window, and was not immediately spotted, thus raising a rumous that she is missing or dead. Help came, and all the wounded were moved to a nearby hospital. I got the information and reached the hospital in a rush.
The duty doctor found her operated knee had open wounds bleeding again, and gave her immediate first aid. He told me that as she had a recent surgery she had to be immediately shifted back to her hospital again for her surgeons to inspect and treat the wounds themselves.
I arranged conveyance immediately and brought her to her surgeons. Her miseries were renewed and doubled and the continuous medical attention was resumed in the city hospital where she had surgery originally.
I and Kala were betrothed to each other in January, ’74. Our wedding was on the 25th of March, on a Monday. It was a good ceremonial wedding with purohits representing both the families present, and benevolently blessed by our parents, relatives and friends and people from our workplaces. Her father, a Ganapadigal in his own right, rituals chanted all the wedding mantras all through the ritualistic conduct. There was general happiness and celebration with a few tears also being shed by Kala’s mother.
It started with Janavasam, Mappillai Azhaippu, Kasi Yathirai, oonjal etc., with Kala having to change into different sarees, all silk sarees, all new, during the two days of celebration. The wedding was well attended and I don’t think any of our relatives or friends or colleagues missed attending. The wedding was solemnised with the tying of the Mangal sutra, which we call ‘Tali’ in Tamil, with ‘ammi midithal’, ‘arundathi parthal’, and the frivolous and enjoyable ‘vilaiyadal’. There was also this ‘maalai maatral’. We hadn’t arranged any staged concerts. The same night was our nutial night. With the ‘Sathu Kudai’ the next morning, the functions at the wedding hall concluded, and Kala entered our home, as wife to me, daughter in law to my parents, and sister in law -Manni – to my three sisters.
We stayed with our parents for around 18 to 20 months; It could even be between two and three years. And then we shifted to a rented house nearer Kala’s office. I commuted by bus to my work spot, and kala just had to walk a kilometer to her office. Our son was born in 1976 and our daughter in 1981. We named our son Rajagopalan, which is also my father’s name. Actually my paternal grandfather was called Narayanaswamy after whom I was named. That is why my grandmother never called me Narayanan but called me Subramani instead. My daughter was named Chitra.
I and Kala never had any honeymoon throughout our life, and our only pastime was an occasional movie, a weekly trip to Marina Beach, visits to our parents’ homes, and a once-a-month eating out at Udipi Hotel at the Wallajah Road Mount Road Junction which has now disappeared. My mother passed away on the 15th January 1979, and was around to take our son in her arms and pet him. She was very affectionate and attached to him because he was the family’s progeny. My sisters’ children were all loved by her but she loved Raju specially because he is her own son’s child.
My mother was around to conduct and participate in the marriages of my three sisters, and tended with love and affection the children of her first two daughters. She was no more to see Lalitha’s children and my daughter. However my father gave Lalitha all the moral support love and affection.
When my mother died in ’79, I stayed back after all the ceremonies were performed, but my father left us to stay with Lalitha who needed more of his support and love.
Our daughter Chitra was born when we were in Triplicane. Afterwards we disposed off the house to discharge some of my fathers’ loans, the long outstanding medical bills and treatment expenses due to our family doctor, Dr. Shivaji.
We again moved to North Madras, to a place nearer to Kala’s office. Raju, as we called our son, was away in Delhi with his grandparents for one year, and when we could bear the parting anymore, we brought him back to Madras and put him in school. He was a good student from Class one, always getting First Rank.
Kala always wanted to live in a house of our own but we had no savings. There was this Godsend then, two satellite towns were planned , one at Vyasarpadi and the other at Maraimalai Nagar. Kala visited the Vyasarpadi plan area to see firsthand, butwe decided on Maraimalai Nagar. So we raised a loan to make the initial deposit and waited for theallotment. We were one of the lucky few to be attotted a house in the first phase of the township plans. Thus we received the key of our own home in 1980. We started paying the monthly instalments which continued for 18 years.
We had lived in North Madras for around six years, at three different places; first on Avadanam Ramaswamy Iyer Street, opposite to Maharani Theatre, then on Solaiappan Street behind Agasthya Theatre, and finally in Corporation Colony, nearest to Kala’s office. Blessedly we had very good friendly neighbours and good landlords. Those were happy years because our children were small and gave us immense pleasure. Kala and I were both warm-blooded and liked physical contact very much, she more apparent than me.
Though we were earning our modest salaries, it was Kala who was really running the show because I never really grew up except physiologically. She was far more mature, more acute, capable of solving any problem and facing any situation and I was just trailing along with her. The question of man and woman, who is superior, never entered our minds because we were well tuned to each other. We went to functions and entertainments always together, inseparable. It is not to say we didn’t have our spats. But ego never entered our relationship.
We then shifted residence to Maraimalai Nagar.