“Jaya! Did you get any letter from Radha?”
This was the first question that Rajesh asked his wife every day for the last two months, as soon as he returned from his office.
“Even today, no letter from her”.
“It is more than three months since she went to Delhi after marriage. Except for the letter saying that she reached Delhi safely and that she is settling down in her new home, we have no further communication from her. I am worried Jaya. Besides, I am not able to face mummy pestering me about the well being of Radha”
“I think it might be a good idea for you to visit Delhi once and find out for yourself what is going on with Radha”
“Yes, I will wait for a few more days and decide”, Rajesh.
Rajesh and his younger sister Radha came from a middle class background. Though hailing from Salem in Tamilnadu his father moved to Chennai on a job transfer, where he decided to settle down with his family. While Rajesh was still in college, his father passed away after a sudden heart attack leaving the responsibility of bringing up the family on his young shoulders.
With the meager savings that his father had left behind, Rajesh completed his education, getting a B.Com degree. He took up a job in an automobile spare parts company, as an assistant.
While working and looking after his family he also completed a part time MBA course which helped him to better his prospects in the company.
Since his orthodox mother refused to send his sister Radha out to college, he encouraged her to get a degree through a correspondence course. Not being interested in studies, she did not complete the course but was happy helping her mother in the household work.
In due course, Rajesh married Jaya, a distant relative from Mysore, who quickly adjusted to her new joint family environment. Though she was irritated by her mother-in-law following difficult rituals every day, she learnt to live with the problem, in the interest of peace in the family. Besides, arrival of two children in quick succession kept her busy bringing them up, while mother-in-law and Radha took care of the house. In a way it suited her because the captive help at home gave her time to pursue her interests in writing and music. But soon a marriage proposal for Radha was to destroy this convenient arrangement
While Radha was growing in age, all efforts of Rajesh to get a suitable alliance for marriage, was proving to be futile. A short dimunitive girl, fair but skinny, Radha could not be considered a beautiful girl. She did not make friends easily. She was more comfortable pottering around the house than going out with friends and having fun.
From the time she turned 18, Rajesh had been trying to get her married. He passed Radha’s horoscope to friends and relatives. He even advertised in the local newspapers & community magazines.
Got hundreds of horoscopes. Either the horoscope did not match or the prospective bride groom did not find Radha impressive. Repeated rejections in the marriage market, was only adding to Radha’s low self esteem and consequent health problems creating avoidable tension in the family.
Radha was nearing 30 and when the family was losing hope of her marriage prospects, a letter Rajesh received from one Mr. Gopal, proved to be a silver lining in an otherwise gloomy situation.
From the letter, Rajesh learnt that Gopal was a 45 year old bachelor, who claimed that he had a good job as a Manager, in a good company in Delhi, drawing a five figure salary. He mentioned that because of family reasons he had not married so far but was now ready. He had come across Radha’s details from a community magazine and was keen to come to Chennai for the girl seeing ceremony.
Though the age difference bothered him, prodded by his ailing mother who was keen to see her daughter settled in life, he responded positively to Gopal.
A date and time was fixed. Gopal turned up alone for the girl seeing ceremony. When questioned, he dismissed the point as irrelevant and said that he was old enough to know what he wanted.
He was medium built, balding but otherwise came across as a decent, albeit a bit arrogant human being. To the surprise of Rajesh and his family, Gopal expressed his willingness to take Radha as his wife, immediately. And he insisted on fixing up the month and date of the wedding straight away.. When Rajesh again brought up the question about Gopal’s relatives, he said he has no relatives but if Rajesh wanted to verify his credentials he can contact his office. He gave his office address and contact numbers and left for Delhi informing Rajesh that if he does not receive a confirmation from him within 10 days, he would look elsewhere for an alliance.
Rajesh was confused. After waiting for so many years, he did not want Radha to get into a bad marriage. In any case, he contacted one of his cousins in Delhi, requesting him to go to Gopal’s office to verify his claim. Within a couple of days the cousin confirmed that Gopal was a highly respected Manager in the company. Though he had a good future, nobody seemed to know anything about Gopal’s family as he was an introvert and did not mix with anyone. He was very good in his job and that was it.
When he shared the letter with his family both his mother and sister were very keen to proceed in the matter. Radha, particularly was very keen and told Rajesh that she was ready to take the risk. There was a sense of desperation in her voice. She was keen to get married and get out from her brother’s house, where she felt she was becoming a burden.
So the decision was made. The marriage was held in Rajesh’s house in a simple ceremony to which only a handful of very close relatives were invited. Absence of anyone from Gopal’s side at the marriage was too conspicous to be missed by everyone present.
The very next day Gopal left with Radha for Delhi leaving behind his Delhi residence address.
Though Rajesh and family felt a bit relieved, he was not sure if he had done the right thing in marrying of his sister to a total stranger without any family. The waiting for news from Radha started.
When he did not receive any further communication from Radha for 5 months Rajesh decided to make a trip to Delhi. Since this was a surprise trip he did not inform Radha or Gopal that he was coming.
From the station he went straight to the apartment complex where Gopal was supposed to be staying. He found the door of Gopal’s flat locked from outside. When he tried ringing the calling bell of the neighbouring flat, there was no response. He took an auto rickshaw to see Gopal at his office.
While waiting at the reception of Gopal’s office, all kinds of thoughts went through Rajesh’s mind. An unexplainable knot was forming in his stomach. Soon he was called into Gopal’s cabin.
Gopal did not seem to be happy to see Rajesh. He was offended that Rajesh had come to spy on him. He made it very clear to Rajesh that Radha was his responsibility and that he will look after her well on his terms He did not want anybody to interfere with his life. He refused to allow Rajesh from seeing Radha but promised that Rajesh will soon hear from Radha. Not knowing what else to do Rajesh returned to Chennai with a heavy heart .
Within a week a letter arrived from Radha. Rajesh opened the letter and began to read it aloud loud so that his mother could also listen.
I understand that you visited my husband in his office and wanted to see me. I am sorry that my husband does not like to have anything to do with any relatives, however close they are. That is why I never responded to any of your letters. But he is keeping me happy. Please do not make any more efforts to contact me or visit me. It will only make my husband unhappy. Since I have a caring husband I would like to lead my life on his terms. Hope you will understand.
The tone of the letter without any recognition of the feelings of her family members, surprised Rajesh. Since Radha seemed to be very clear in her mind about her stand Rajesh and Jaya decided to slowly reconcile themselves to Radha’s fate. Further within a month of receiving the letter from Radha, Rajesh’s mother passed away. So he was spared the possible pestering from his mother about Radha’s welfare. Subsequently he did make a couple of attempts to reach Radha but found that Gopal had changed both his job and residence. Radha was completely lost to the family.
It was more than 25 years, since he had lost touch with Radha, when a telephone call from his sister-in-law, provided a window of opportunity to learn about Radha.
“Hi Rajesh! Guess who called me today” , it was Geetha’s excited voice on the phone.
“How do I know? You got the call”
Geetha responded, “it was your long lost sister Radha’s son!”
Rajesh now could not hide his own excitement.
“Really, how did this happen? Where is Radha now? What is her son’s name? What is he doing?”
Rajesh started bombarding Geetha with questions.
“While going through my facebook page yesterday I saw a notification from my friend that she came across a message from one of her facebook friends called Rohit Gopal looking for contact details of his uncle Rajesh Mudaliar. Since my friend knows that I have a brother-in-law named Rajesh Mudaliar she forwarded the message to me. Within a couple of hours of my response to the message from Radha’s son, Rohit called me!”
“Is Radha alive? How is she now? How did Gopal allow Rohit to take this initiative?” Rajesh could not wait till Geetha completed her story.
“Rohit is 22 years old young man, a Commerce graduate, who is working in a private company. He lost his father recently. It is only after the mourning period was over that Radha told him about her own family and how his father had banned her from having any communication with her near and dear ones, during his life time. Rohit on his own took the initiative of locating his uncle through the facebook.
“Geetha, please give me his phone number. I want to talk to him immediately”. The urgency in Rajesh`s voice was understandable.
Exactly a month later, it was celebrations time at Rajesh’s home. When Radha and Rohit arrived at their home in Chennai, there was a lot of hugging and kissing. Rajesh was happy to see that Radha looked prosperous – she had put on weight and with graying hair near her temples she looked quite dignified. Rohit was fair, tall and handsome young man. When Rajesh thought of his old mother who would have been happy to see her daughter doing well in life, tears welled up in his eyes!