Kishore is a manager in a pharmaceutical company leading a decent life in an upper middle class locality in Chennai. He owns a three bedroom flat in an apartment complex where he lives with his wife and two kids. Writing is his hobby. He pens short stories whenever he gets time and is happy to see them in print in some magazine or the other. A keen observer of people, he is constantly on the look out for material for his short stories- which people around him or anyone he comes into contact with provide him.
One day he was requesting Ramu, a man in his early forties, who helps him with the maintenance of his house on a monthly retainer, to recommend a driver.
“No problem Sir, I have my younger brother Ganesh who is looking for a job as a driver. The gentleman with whom he was working has been transferred.
“Good! Is he your blood brother or a cousin?”
“He is my step brother, Sir”
“So your father married twice?”
“No Sir, my mother did”
Kishore was intrigued with the unusual response. Seeing the surprise look on Kishore`s face, Ramu clarified.
“My mother, a couple of years after giving birth to me and my sister, divorced my father because of differences with him and married again. Ganesh is the son of my step father sir”.
Kishore realized that here was material for a very juicy story. Ramu was more than happy to elaborate his life story for Kishore`s benefit.
Ramu’s parents hailed from Chengalpet, a small town 75 km away from Chennai. While Ramu’s father Selvam belonged to an upper caste middle class family, his mother Selvi belonged to a scheduled caste. Selvam, after completing his high school, joined a small garment factory where he was working as a supervisor. Selvi was an employee in the same factory working as a tailor. Both were good looking and took a natural liking for each other. The friendship developed into love and finally a marriage vehemently opposed by families of both Selvam and Selvi!
When life in Chenglepet became unbearable because of the constant harassment by family members, the couple decided to move to Madras to try their luck there. Selvam managed to get a job in an automobile spare parts factory and Selvi got a job in a small company located near their modest LIG flat in a suburb in South Madras.
Life was cruising along beautifully. Soon the couple was blessed with their first child – a boy they named Ramu and a girl born after two years they named Mala.
With the growing responsibility of bringing up children and the need for more money, Selvam started working long hours in his factory – working overtime to earn some extra income every month. He would leave the house by 7.00 am and return home every day only at 9.00 pm. He would be so tired at the end of a gruelling day that as soon as he came home he would have his dinner and hit the bed. He had no time to spend with the family.
Selvi, loaded with the responsibility of working in a company , looking after the home and children found it tough to manage! She was badly missing a connect with her husband.
She started protesting which led to frequent quarrels between husband and wife. As it happens in many such families, Selvam started hitting the bottle and on many evenings he would not even return home.
The frequent fight between the parents would unnerve the children who lived in constant fear of their lives! While Selvi was tormented by her hopeless situation - a silver lining appeared in the form of co-worker Shanmugam!
Shanmugam was a senior assistant in the company where Selvi was working. He was a bachelor, two years younger to Selvi. Since Selvi was reporting to Shanmugam on a day to day basis, they developed a friendship beyond the call of duty. After a very bad encounter with her husband she would invariably pour her heart out to Shanmugam who was more than willing to lend his broad shoulders for Selvi to lean on!
After office hours he started visiting Selvi’s home and tried to get friendly with the children. Though Ramu and Mala resisted the intrusion of a stranger initially, the gifts he brought them regularly made them to like the stranger.
Selvi was completely floored with Shanmugam’s affection for her and her children. The admiration transformed into love leading to her getting into a physical relationship with Shanmugam.
Since Shanmugam was a regular visitor to Selvi’s house and the neighbours often saw them going out together, tongues started wagging and the rumours reached Selvam.
Being unwell, one day Selvam returned home in the afternoon early. Only to find Shanmugam opening the door of his house. Since children were away at school, Selvam had caught the couple red handed. All hell broke loose!
While Shanmugam quickly slipped out of the house, Selvam and Selvi had a big show down. Before Selvam turned violent, Selvi decided to walk out of the house – never to return again. She had found her new love in Shanmugam who was more than willing to provide her a shelter.
Selvam did not know what hit him. His efforts to get back Selvi through friends proved futile. His estranged mother, with whom he had no contact since his marriage, came to live with him to look after the young children who were obviously shattered by the events in their life. They missed their mother badly. But she did not seem to miss them.
Soon Selvam received a divorce notice from Selvi, who made it clear that she had no intention of reuniting with him and that she had decided to start a new life with Shanmugam. She made no demands about wanting to take her children with her.
Selvam realized rather late in the day that he was mainly responsible for the break-up with Selvi. He not only had to mend his ways but also had to look after his two young children, who were struggling to cope with their trauma. Whereas Selvi married Shanmugam, he never married again! His mother`s repeated efforts to persuade him to marry again were in vain. She even threatened to walk out on him as she was too old to look after the children on a permanent basis. Selvam refused to agree. He accepted the challenge of bringing bring up Ramu and Mala, as a single parent. Providing them all the love and care that he could give to ensure that they never felt insecure - So that they would grow into responsible human beings.
After completing their school education, as they were not interested in further studies, both Ramu & Mala started working and in due course got married to spouses chosen by their father. Surprisingly their mother attended both their weddings accompanied by children she got through Shanmugam.
“So Ramu, Ganesh is the son your mother bore through Shanmugam”
“Yes sir, Ganesh also has a younger sister sir,”
“Were you in touch with your mother after she married Shanmugam”
“Yes sir, though she was never allowed to visit us, my father did not have objection to our seeing her – especially on festival occasions!”
“Is your father alive?”
“No sir, he died of cancer seven years ago. And Shanmugam uncle died in a road accident two years ago”.
“So, your mother is staying with your step brother , Ganesh?”
“No sir, she is staying with me”
“But, she ditched you and your sister and married again. Yet you like her?”
“She is after all my mother Sir. It is my duty to look after her in her old age”
In this day and age when children, staying as nuclear families, are not keen to look after their old parents, Kishore found Ramu’s commitment refreshingly different and commendable.