JASMINE VINE
THAT DECLINED THE PROP

(Original in Malayalam: Njediyil Padaraatha Mulla
By Great Poet Edasseri Govindan Nair)

Translated by K. Hassan
Edited by Asokakumar Edasseri



CHARACTERS

MADHAVAN - Servant, 32
KARTHIAYANI - Maid, 26
KALYANI AMMA - Mistress of the house, 45 (Widow of Dr. Karunakara Menon)
GOPINATHA MENON - Son of the Doctor, 23
USHA - Wife of Gopinatha Menon
GANGADHARA MENON - Elder Brother of Usha, 30

 JASMINE VINE THAT DECLINED THE PROP

(Work area adjacent to the kitchen in a house in Madras city. A round-table without drawers and a stool. Servant Madhavan is slicing vegetables for curry. Time is early morning. Enters Karthiayani).

Karthiayani: Will there be a fool like me?
Madhavan: It's hard to find.
Karthiayani: Will you hear me out?
Madhavan: I shall.
Karthiayani: Even today I kept that bronze kettle with water.......in the veranda. For Mooppar1 to clean his teeth. Kept brush and tooth paste also. You know, his towel is usually kept in the side room for drying. I went there, folded the towel and waited for him!
Madhavan: Yes... yes....! I hear it every day. After brushing his teeth he bellows from there. 'Karthiayanee!í You were waiting there to hear that, isn't it?
Karthiayani: Only after a while, did it strike me.....
Madhavan: That the call has to now come from the other world!
Karthiayani: I felt really awkward. I thought nobody would have seen me waiting, but when I entered the veranda, kochamma was there!
Madhavan: Vallya kochamma?2
Karthiayani: Yes! She had just finished brushing her teeth! The moment she took the towel from me, I cried!
Madhavan: That's good! But, it should have been better still, if it were on the day of his demise. You are late by sixteen days!
Karthiayani: Now, listen! vallya kochamma also cried. She wept embracing me!
Madhavan: Surprising! This is the first time that kochamma is seen crying in front of others. Otherwise, she used to weep only behind closed doors, standing inside the bath room or sitting in the pooja room. She could weep only like that. Yet she canít help but weep daily. Never a day has passed without her crying. Good that at least now, she got the freedom to cry aloud in the open!
Karthiayani: Don't say that. Vallya kochamma had not been troubled that much by mooppar!
Madhavan: Oh, no. Who said because of mooppar? Vallya kochamma and myself came to this house together... Now it has been twenty three years! In my opinion, she stopped crying just sixteen days back.
Karthiayani: What are you saying! It is not fair for people to be like this. Not even a single good word to say about the departed soul!
Madhavan: Don't judge me like that. You want good words about him? Then listen. Madras City is yet to see such a good doctor like Doctor Karunakara Menon. He was God personified!
Karthiayani: Till now you were speaking ill about that good man!
Madhavan: Let the patients talk about that doctor. I am talking about my boss. There is no one worse than him in Madras city.
Karthiayani: Wonder of wonders! We were not talking about patients. Neither about servants.
Madhavan: I know, we were talking about valliya kochamma. May be women are like that, I am not sure! While they don't feel like loving and don't have enough courage to hate, the only recourse left for them is to shed tears.
Karthiayani: Though I have cursed him several times before his death, I have only good words to say about him today. And I have only good thoughts about him.
Madhavan: Think of the ways of the world! People donít need favours. They only need an assurance that they woudnít be hurt anymore. Then begins the flow of love. They would be ready to even shed a few drops of tears.
Karthiayani: (Looking inside.) Here comes kochamma.
Madhavan: Which kochamma?
Karihiayani: The lady of our young master.
Madhavan: Oh, it is the other way round - she is kochejamanan's3 kochamma!
(Enters Usha).
Usha: (Scornfully) What are you saying?
Madhavan: As you heard it now, about kochejamanan.
Usha: Oh! what have the servants got to say of him?
Madhavan: Nothing good, at any rate.
Usha: Madhavan nair! You are exceeding the limits. Just because you were here for so long doesn't mean that we will put up with anything you say or do.
Madhavan: I never thought so. Same way, there are certain things which kochamma and kochejamanan should also not think of me.
Usha: Whatís that?
Madhavan: That, Madhavan is that servant lad who came to this house twenty three years ago!
Usha: What does that mean?
Madhavan: You want to know what it means! That twenty-three years have passed since I got too big for my boots. But your husband could speak of it only yesterday. Too late to say that.
Usha: Why this outburst today? That too in front of me.
Madhavan: It should have been yesterday. But was it not the sixteenth day of mourning the death of a gentleman who fed both the speaker and the listener? I didnít forget it. But then, it is you who made me talk like that. That too for the silly reason that I didn't escort some friend of yours at dusk, after having borne the brunt of the dayís work.
Usha: Ah! Wonderful! You are the judge.
Madhavan: Even otherwise I wonít retort to your husband. 1 shuddered before a tiger for twenty three years. Then why care, when a lamb bleats?
Usha: (Turns back) Karthiayani, I did not come here to see this fellowís outburst. Will it be convenient for you to iron those clothes? You don't have to, if you too are bearing some brunt. I am afraid of speaking to you even. Yesterdayís dirty linen are lying on the floor. You need not wash them either. These days one has to be careful not to get beaten up by servants! (Walks out, lips quivering).
Madhavan: Now I must be ready. May be today itself. He must order me to Ďget outí. That's the certificate I am looking for. I have some delicacy instead in requesting vallya kochamma to relieve me.
Karthiayani: (Absorbed in thought) After leaving?
Madhavan: After leaving? ... If relieved this morning, Madhavan would join duty somewhere else by noon... with better pay!
Karthiayani: I donít know. Let me iron those clothes.
Madhavan: Stop. Whose clothes? Tell me. Are you prepared to come with me? Or.....
Karthiayani:: What strange manners are these!
Madhavan: Didn't you like it? Are you prepared or not?

(Karthiayani sobs)
Madhavan: Everything is topsy-turvy: Now it is for me to ask this question, Ďwhat strange manners are these?
Karthiayani: Let's go, if we are to. But why not say some good words before leaving?
Madhavan: Why to leave if we have good words to say? This ladyís husband was born after my arrival in this house. This young mistress was brought here when he was twenty two. Not even a year has passed after their wedding. I cannot be a boy once again and serve these wretched people!
Karthiayani: It has been thirteen years since my mother brought me here.
Madhavan: Yes, I remember Paru Amma of Padinjarayil. Poor old woman died on the third day of her arrival.
Karthiayani: It has been thirteen years since vallya kochamma had been feeding me. Am I not a woman? With out considering all these......
Madhavan: Sure. Moreover, today, vallya kochamma even felt like embracing you. Why should it matter even if you get a few kicks from the young lady. You better remain here. But inform me when you are done with.
Karthiayani: Oh! Donít go without me.
Madhavan: Ah! Neither will you allow me to leave without you nor will you come along with me!
Karthiayani: If we leave now, wonít they say that we eloped? Did we wait for so long with great difficulty to hear such an allegation?
Madhavan: Then, you suggest a way out.
Karthiayani: We can speak directly to vallya kochamma or ask someone else to speak to her on our behalf.
Madhavan: And then they will celebrate the wedding of the maid and the servant in front of the holy lamp and NiraPara,4 accompanied by the hallowing sound of piper and drums. Phoo!...!

(Angry male voice from inside)
Karthiayanee, Karthiayanee!
Karthiayani: Oh! Kochejamanan!
(Responds with 'Yeh' sound and runs to him)

(Curtain)


SCENE - II

(Same night. Gopinatha menon in his bed room. Appropriate arrangements. Gopinatha menon is reading. Enters Kalyani amma.)

Gopinatha menon: Why, amma5? You have still not gone to bed!
Kalyani amma: I could not sleep. But I need to sleep from now on and that's why I came here.
Gopinatha menon: (Anxiously) What is the problem with your room? (Afterthought) Yeah, perhaps memories are haunting you amma! You sleep here. I shall go to Ushaís room.
Kalyani amma: No.
Gopinatha menon: Then I shall also sleep here, amma. Solitude may be troubling you.
Kalyani amma: (Sits down) Don't worry. I can put up with that. That is not the reason for me to be here now.
Gopinatha menon: Then?
Kalyani amma: It has been twenty three years since I slept peacefully. Fatigue will make one's body weary. But peace of mind is required for a good night's sleep.
Gopinatha menon: Twenty three years! Then, was I responsible for your worries, amma?
Kalyani amma: Oh no! what do you know of it my dear!
Gopinatha menon: During these years, if amma hadnít been living happily, I had no chance of knowing it. I wouldn't be able to understand it even now!
Kalyani amma: Now you should understand it.
Gopinatha menon: Okay, shall try. Please speak up.
Kalyani amma: (Silent for a while). This is the long and short of it. You must make small amends in the way you treat Karthiayani. No, not small; big amends.
Gopinatha menon: (Brooding) This morning I called her up and scolded her. She did not listen to Usha. Is it not neccessary for the servants to obey her? I had to scold her a bit excessively. You must have heard it. Isn't it?
Kalyani amma: Yes. But that is not the reason why I am telling you this today.
Gopinatha menon: Usha and I scold her at times.
Kalyani amma: Yes; and it is in no way in excess when it is to a servant. Your father used to be merciless with them.
Gopinatha menon: (Perplexed). Then what type of change in behaviour are you talking about?
Kalyani amma: Gopi,... Karthiayani is your elder sister.
Gopinatha menon: (Sardonically). Now-a-days amma has developed a liking for philosophy that adores socialism. It is only natural, but we need to live in this society.
Kalyani amma: I knew that it would be hard for you to believe it. In fact no one would. But, I have only this to tell everyone.
Gopinatha menon: (Laughs still louder) Did amma sleep at dusk?
Kalyani amma: Ah! You mean I dreamt! Gopi, this is neither dream nor delirium. I gave birth to her... earlier to your birth.
(Gopinatha menon composes himself; stands in front of his mother and looks closely at her).
Kalyani amma: I know it is easier to believe that I am insane, than to believe this. But I can prove that I am not insane. You remember your fatherís old diaries? It's only today morning that you brought them here. Read his diary written almost thirteen years ago - the entries on the day Karthiayani came to this house. He wrote it on the very same day.
Gopinatha menon: (Takes out the diaries from the shelf) Anyway, I shall take the diary. When mind is agitated, some impressions get inside from nowhere. And they bar the entry of reality. I am not happy about ammaís restlessness and sleeplessness. It is indeed a great boon that achan kept his diaries. But I should not have brought it here. Now itself I shall keep them in ammaís room. (Piles up the diaries on the table).
Kalyani amma: (Quickly gets up and with ease selects and opens a diary and places it in front of her son) Look here! I can recognize this diary among thousands of the kind, within seconds. I have repeatedly recited what is written in it, as many times as I could.
(Gopinatha menon reads the diary and nervously falls back into the chair).
Kalyani amma: Now, my son! Arenít you convinced that this is no dream. No delirium.
Gopinatha menon: Oh! Amma! What is this? Who is this Parameswaran Nair?
Kalyani amma: He was my first husband. He went to Penang before I delivered Karthiayani. Nothing was heard of him afterwards.
Gopinatha menon: Then?
Kalyani amma: Myself and a weaning baby! Utter poverty and starvation! We pulled on for three years. By then my mother passed away. And uncle too.
Gopinatha menon: Was achan there, during that period?
Kalyani amma: No. I fell ill. Some of our friends arranged for the sale of our house and with that money, managed to admit me into the hospital, here. Since there would be nobody here in the hospital to look after the baby, I left the baby with Paru Amma at Patinjarayil before coming.
Gopinatha menon: Was that achan who treated you in the hospital, then?
Kalyani amma: Yes, he was my doctor. He gave me a second life. When I left the hospital, he took me to his house. His mother was alive then. She took good care of me.
Gopinatha menon: But then, you could have brought the baby.
Kalyani amma: Your father did not allow me. There was only one recourse open to me to save myself and the baby - to obey him.
Gopinatha menon: (In a delirious state) Now I understand. But, what an awful truth!
Kalyani amma: Yes. Gopi! I spent twenty three years in this state of agony. Now I want to put an end to it: I must sleep.
Gopinatha menon: (Reclining) Yes, amma needs sleep. But I canít sleep any more.
Kalyani amma: Wonít you accept her as your elder sister?
Gopinatha menon: There was a time when I used to lie down and listen to the stories told by you. One of them was about a princess planting a melon and later floating across the ocean over a bunch of them and the Shepherd boy winning half the country along with the princess! At that age, I could believe them without questioning! Against that backdrop there should not be any difficulty for me now to take the servant maid of yester years as my sister. Or rather why did I grow up!
Kalyani amma: (Rising) At any cost, she must not be kept a servant maid any longer.
Gopinatha menon: Amma, past these long years you lived in this house afraid of achan, and cursing him from the bottom of your heart.
Kalyani amma: You are free to judge. But, Karthiayani is not a maid servant from tomorrow onwards.
Gopinatha menon: Is she aware of it, amma?
Kalyani Amma: No, not yet. poor girl! She sleeps believing that she is the daughter of Paru Amma of Patinjarayil. May be she is dreading a night-mare, of being scolded by you or by Usha.... lying on a sheet on the floor, in the maid's room! There she lies. But, she will sleep there only tonight.
(About to leave).
Gopinatha menon: Oh! Amma, wonít you allow me even breathing time? Did you bring me up for the last twenty three years only to place this heavy load on my head?
Kalyani amma: (walks away. And turning back). Now I must sleep! I must sleep! (Exits)
Gopinatha menon: (Staring in that direction) Sleep! Now only I understand its full charm!

(Curtain)

SCENE - III

(Work area. At the corner of the floor lies some dirty linen. Usha stares at them furiously. Enters Karthiayani)

Usha: Didnít you wash the linen last night?
Karthiayani: I shall wash them now, kochamma.
Usha: That is not what I asked you. Why was it not done last night. I want to know why. I have no power within me to make you work. But, if a reason is sought for the negligence, I hope, perhaps you wonít revolt.
Karthiyani: Kochamma! What do you mean! I do it every day. Am I not staying here to do the domestic chores?
Usha: It is not for you to do it at your convenience. If it is so and if you feel that we should enjoy your services at your will and pleasure, all right, do speak up.
Karthiayani: Kochamma! Last night vallya kochamma went to bed very late. I was afraid to be alone outside to wash the linen. I thought I would do it this morning. I never meant wilful negligence.
Usha: If so, you would have done it early this morning. Even if you didnít wash them yesterday, nay, at least you should have put them in a bundle. But you kept them where it is, as if you threw them on to my face. Why this circumlocution? Tell me frankly, If you canít. Please donít harass me like this. Now I am afraid of even speaking to you people. Wonít you listen to me at all? I have so little authority over you! If you speak up frankly, then I can at least avoid such things in future.
(Karthiayini bundles up the linen. Enterís Kalyani amma. She snatches the clothes from Karthiayini).
Kalyani amma: (Keeping calm, tells Usha) I am going to take bath. I shall wash these clothes then. (To Karthiayani). Meanwhile you arrange the pooja room.
(Karthiayani and Usha stand stunned)
Karthiayani: (Weeping) Kochamma, please forgive me this time. From now on, I shall wash them every night, even if it is late.
Usha: (Goes to Kalyani amma and takes the bundle) Oh! Amma, what are you doing? Canít you act differently, with me? (Her lips quiver).
Kalyani amma: Oh! Both of you have misunderstood me!
Karthiayani: (To Usha) I have never disobeyed kochamma. Please donít bear any ill will towards me. I shall fall at your feet, if I am wrong.
Kalyani amma: No, no, no. Donít do that.
Usha: Amma, you could have told me straight to my face that I should not scold the servants here. This is really unkind of you.
Kalyani amma: (in a mood of resignation) I give up. When words no more carry their right meaning, action alone could be believed. But, when actions create more confusion than words, we are indeed helpless!
(Goes out)
(Enters Gopinatha menon)
Gopinatha menon: (Understands the situation at a glance). Usha, leave it there.
Usha: Yesterday you scolded her severely. But amma doesnít want her to obey me. Amma could have made it clear earlier, so that I would have done it myself, or my brother would have arranged someone for me. I need not have been humiliated like this, in front of the servants.
Gopinatha menon: No body got humiliated today. If at all anyone got humiliated, that was till yesterday!
Usha: That means?
Gopinatha menon: Till yesterday, we have been making her do improper things... and were speaking to her improperly .
Usha: If it is so, whatís the use of the servants? What should we tell them? I fail to understand anyone today!
Karthiayani: Oh, God! Did I commit such a great sin? I didnít wash the clothes for a day. That too only one day during the last thirteen years! The way things are going, I will have to look for another house by evening. I lived with my amma in her house for twelve years. Then I shifted to this house and this became my house. For the last thirteen years, I have never disobeyed anyone. Didn`t I look after kochejamanan with tender care since he was ten? Did I serve you all only as a wage-earner? Oh God! If I had a younger brother, I would not have loved him any better!
(Gopinatha menon turns his face in silence; and wipes off his tears)
Usha: (Perturbed by the expression of Gopinatha menon) So, I am the comet that entered the orbit of your family! If so, why not tell me openly? You could have given me a hint at least. Karthiayani amma! I donít know the customs and manners here. It is for them to brief me. So far no one has hinted that my conduct is wrong. Because of me, you neednít seek a new house. My brother did not bring me up so badly, lacking humanity! (became more virulent and turns to Gopinatha menon). What did I do to go through this hell?
Gopinatha menon: Enough! Stop! Stop! When women speak, they first stir up the hornetís nest of arguments. Before one word could reach the ears, they might have made a hundred stings on your soul. Look, nobody's going to go away from here.... Till yesterday we were in dark about our relationships. Those who knew it could not speak for reasons best known to them. In a sense Usha, we are fortunate. We suffered its pangs only for a few hours, while our deceased father and living mother were reeling under it for the past twenty-three years!
Usha: (Interrupting him) would you mind speaking in a language I can understand?
Gopinatha menon: Usha! Both of you may still not understand, because it is difficult to comprehend. There are certain things which fail to make sense, even if spoken to. You may very well test it now, if you are interested in. I tell you that this lady who stands infront of us is not the maid servant of yesterday. She is my edathy6 - The child whom my mother saw as her first baby (To Karthiayani) Donít be perplexed. I am not joking. I knew of it only last night. It is true that you are my elder sister!
(Karthiayani stands dumb founded)
Usha: (Becomes furious at the joke) Havenít you got anything better to utter?
Gopinatha menon: To those who do not understand what is already spoken to?
Usha: What silly things are you talking?
Gopinatha menon: (In a serious tone). That this is my elder sister. That means, your sister-in-law. You donít know our family history!
Usha: How is it? (As if she is somewhat convinced) So, what really happened, then?
Gopinatha menon: You better ask amma. She will be able to tell you in a better way (To Karthiayani) Prepare the pooja room before amma comes. Usha, you may also go along with her. (Exit).
(Usha throws the bundle of unclean linen on the floor and sits on it.)
Karthiayani: (Stands hiding her face in her hands) Oh! Amma!...

(Curtain)

SCENE - IV

(Verandah. Noon time. Kalyani amma sits on one of the chairs kept around the round table . Usha stands behind another chair on the right side with hands resting on it)

Kalyani amma: My mind is shuddering with an awful fear!
Usha: Why amma!
Kalyani amma: It is the first time that I am going to see her not dressed as a maid servant.
Usha: Yes, but why are you afraid of it?
Kalyani amma: I have no faith in the intervening moments that she takes to come here from that room.
Usha: Amma, you suffered a lot. And on several occasions, you were desperate too. Our minds would be getting ready rather unconsciously, to adapt even to the sudden changes in the situations. Look here, amma! Do you know how reluctant she was to wear that saree and silk-blouse! I was in terrible distress! What an unbecoming shyness! Oh! It was too much... she wont even wear the jewellery. She canít stand before her brother dressed up like this, she was muttering.
Kalyani amma: She will feel quite awkward in that new form even in front of me. Shyness has a quality to affect even the onlooker. No such unnatural expressions should appear on my face, when I see her in the new attire for the first time. When I think of it, I become all the more ill at ease.
Usha: Yes. Nothing unnatural should appear in ammaís face. (Looking towards the dressing room) Yes, please come.
Kalyani amma: (Looking towards the dressing room). Karthoo... come here!
(Karthiayani all dressed up appears on stage with Dutch courage. She stands on the left side of Kalyani amma. Seizing her hand Kalyani amma beckons her to sit in the next chair. By then, she covers her face in her palms and sobs)
Kalyani amma: Cry my baby, cry. You have been suppressing it for the last twenty three years. Your amma could but reduce its vigor, by weeping a little, everyday. (pats on her back - with a smile).
Usha: Oh! No. You must stop this by the time my brother comes here (Karthiayani wipes her face, cheers herself up despite her shyness and look around to know which brother.) Your brother has gone to bring my ettan5a.
Karthiyani: (In a mild complaining tone). You will invite the whole city... to exhibit me.
Kalyani amma: Karthoo, call Usha by her name.
Karthiayani: (with hesitation). Amma! (Stops).
Kalyani amma: Speak up, dear!
(Karthiayani feels awkward and becomes diffident to speak)
Usha: (Smiles) Amma, if you are called upon to forget a full stanza and recollect a new one all of a sudden, then some aberrations are bound to happen while reciting.
Karthiayani: We canít forget everything altogether, (Pressing her face against the hands of Usha). Have I ever imagined this to be the hands of my sister-in-law!
(Usha stands closer to Karthiayani)
Usha: It was better that you didnít! Otherwise, you would have died long ago, from the stings of my poisonous tongue.
Kalyani amma: Forget the bad past my children, forget.
Karthiayani: Considering that you were speaking to a maid, you didnít say anything unbearable. In that sense, I am grateful to you. But some things that are unforgettable will remain.
Usha: Edathi! whatís that?
Karthiayani: Human beings canít be easily transplanted like spinach.
Kalyani Amma: Look! Here comes Gopi and Gangadhara menon.
(Enter Gopinatha menon and Gagadhara menon. Mother and Karthiayani rise from their seats. Usha walks one step forward to greet them).
Usha: Etta! Should I introduce my sister-in-law to you?
Gangadhara menon: (smiling) In that case, some one will have to introduce you to me, if you change your hair style. Aunty! I have great pleasure that your daughterís life in incognito is over.
Kalyani Amma: Take your seat.
(Gangadhara menon, Kalyani amma and Gopinatha menon take their seats. Karthiayani stands behind Kalyani amma and Usha behind her brother.)
Gopinatha menon: Edathi may sit here.
Gangadhara menon: Usha! you must teach her the etiquettes of the society.
Usha: (Laughs) She knows the theories well. Difficulty is in practicing.
(Karthiayani blushes ever more with each reference about her)
Gopinatha menon: Edathi, you had lost several good moments in life. Sisters generally keep as a mark of their childhood memory, wound scars on their hands or marks of scratches on their abdomen inflicted upon by their younger brothers. We didnít meet during that period. But after our meeting, I have harmed you a lot. You may have traces of it in your mind. Keep them as memories of this younger brother.
Gangadhara Menon: It is said that when sibblings make scratch marks or scars on each other, part of their soul is broken!
Karthiayani: Oh! If ever I knew that you were my brother! (Tears roll down, failing her voice) Usha! please come.
(Karthiayani exits excitedly, hand in hand with Usha)
Gopinatha menon: It is better you go now! It requires the heart of an ogre to face such a scene!
Gangadhara menon: Aunty, you have cried a lot; that too in silence! You might have suffered its sourness in a much higher degree than anyone could imagine. Probably that was required to create the present scene. I tell you this. Even if each drop of those tears had been converted into pearls and if all of them were exhibited together, it would not have produced the grace of this scene. This is so sublime!
Kalyani amma: I have shed tears in misfortune! Now in fortune too, I canít but weep.
Gangadhara menon (Laughs) Do we call the misfortune that starts bubbling, as fortune in full bloom?
Usha: (Returns) Etta, you made her cry. She is now murmuring and recounting the past, as if her brother is dead. When she came here she could not even embrace her brother and give him a kiss!
Gopinatha menon: (Wipes his tears). Let bygones be bygones! From now on my sister can expect all the loving care from me.
Kalyani amma: That is as far as you are concerned. (Looks at Usha)
Usha: Me? For my part I should say I wonít get such a gentle relative like her in my life. Hope she wonít keep any grudge towards me against my past harassments.
Kalyani amma: I never bear malice. It will be so with my children too.
Gopinatha menon: If character comes by heredity, then I might inherit my fatherís heartlessness too!
Gangadhara menon; Oh no! Donít speak ill of your father. That generation had their own vanities. Such notions were common, like if oneís wife is not a virgin, it's a matter of shame for the husband!
Gopinatha menon: One cannot separate a mother from her child without an element of cruelty. That aspect lacks conviction in your interpretation.
Gangadhara menon: Instead, think of the generosity of his action in writing that diary. Indeed, he must have thought of the possibility of the childís suffering after her motherís death. Otherwise the whole property would have fallen into your hands, Gopi. He did so much of justice to that girl... not to put undeserving faith even in his own son. Such an attitude can come only out of sublime kindness.
Gopinatha menon: May be true.
Kalyani amma: Even the present generation entertains such vanities as what Gangadhara menon said. Oh, my mind aches to think of Karthoo.
Usha: What is the short coming with my edathi? Is she not entilted to share equal status with her brother?
Gopinatha menon: No. People would still say, that she was a mere maid. You can dress up any one with love - but, that dress would cover up ugliness only upto oneís neck.
Kalyani amma: Your fatherís sin canít be expiated until she becomes your sister in its full sense. Until then, I wonít attain salvation.
Usha: If ever someone thinks ill of my sister-in-law, I will cease to be a relative of him or her, throughout my life.... however intimate they were to me till then.
Gangadhara menon: My girl, your pledge is too hard! Those who know your character wonít disbelieve you!
Gopinatha menon: We must entrust my sister to a proper hand. Otherwise, all these will turn out to be a farce. Instead of helping, it will really be harmful to that gentle soul.
Usha: You are right! What we have done now is to put a free flying bird into a cage; that too, out of compassion!
Gopinatha menon: Now the cage cannot be opened!
Kalyani amma: Amma put a heavy weight on your shoulder, son.
Usha: Even otherwise he is restless in his sleep!
Gangadhara menon: Oh! My girl, don't brood over it. Don't get agitated in your present condition.
Kalyani amma: Yes, yes. There should not be any room for anxiety when one is carrying. That is bad for the child.
Gangadhara menon: If it is humanly possible to solve the problem, then I assure you that this family will not have any! Is that okay?
Usha: Ideals are quite good!
Gangadhara menon: Look here my girl! Your brother is a bachelor.
Usha: Ettan!
Gangadhara menon: Have you started thinking, that your sister-in-law doesnít enjoy the status, when it is for your own brother?
Usha: No, no...not at all! I cry, because I am overjoyed.
Gopinatha menon: Gangadhara menon, I know your concept about marriage. That is why I tell you this. Even if it is for the sake of my sister, a man like you should not make such a sacrifice.
Gangadhara menon: Oh, my! This is no sacrifice. I am far removed from the concept of ideal love. I have started regarding marriage as practical life. If Karthiayani can love me, we can conduct this marriage without any issues.
Kalyani Amma: In terms of age, both of you complement each other.
Gopinatha menon: And both have the same common point of love; Usha and me.
Usha: Oh! Let me somehow bring my sister-in-law here. (She goes out, running)
Gangadhara menon: Today she is only twelve years old! Poor girl!
Kalyani amma: This is the second time that you are blessing our family. First, with Usha and now with your own self. When I see such things, which we never ever imagined could happen, I canít but think that these are the results of the relations in the past birth.
Gopinatha menon: By and large, the whole situation makes me also emotional. But, it is not happiness, as in the case of Usha. I experience an unknown fear. Could be because of lack of precedence.
(Enters Usha with Karthiayani)
Usha: (Points at Gangadhara menon) Sister-in-law, do you know him? Shall I introduce him to you now? You may not be able to call him by his name7 after a few days.
Gangadhara menon: Oh my girl! I should pinch your ears!
Kalyani amma: Karthoo! Gopi has decided to give you in marriage to Gangadhara menon.
Karthiayani: Oh! Oh! (Stands wonderstruck for a few moments, wants to speak something, but keeps quiet with self-restraint) I feel suffocated. You should not dabble with oneís life like this. Usha..! I have a lot to talk. Yet when I begin to talk, my throat becomes parched!
Gopinatha menon: Edathi, events took place, a little too fast. Please donít be perturbed by that. Usha, you need not compel her to be here. These speedy changes would make anyone, dizzy!
(Usha goes in, holding Karthiayani)
Karthiayani: (As she goes) Ah! Had it been possible for me, without using words, to make people understand!
Gopinatha menon: Today I am going to announce this news in the Club.
Gangadhara menon: (After a pause and due consideration) Better we do it.
Gopinatha menon: Slowly but surely, people will come to know of this and then they might start ridiculing us. If we divulge the information by ourselves, then we can keep up its seriousness.
Gangadhara menon: (Ponderously) Thatís right.
Kalyani amma: Think well before proceeding.
Usha: (Returns) To day is the day, when my edathi reaches the end of her weeping days.
(Curtain)

SCENE - V

(Time is dusk. Kalyani amma sits in the Verandha. Madhavan stands by her side submissively)
Kalyani amma: What do you want Madhav?
Madhavan: Kochamma, kindly permit me to go away from here.
Kalyani amma: Hmm, What happened to you? And so soon?
Madhavan: It happened rather suddenly. I thought I would be asked to go, so I won't have to request for it.
Kalyani amma: Whom did you expect to do that.
Madhavan: Kochejamanan - I was waiting to hear a Ďget outí from him for the past two days. If so, I could have avoided seeking permission from you, kochamma. But till now, it didnít happen.
Kalyani amma: Why do you take it so seriously, if Gopi at times speaks a few angry words! Donít you think that any one who manages a house has to fret and fume occassionally? You are not a novice in this house. Is it not natural for him to utter a few unpleasant words with the kith and kin, when he has to shoulder the responsibilities all alone and all of a sudden?
Madhavan: I donít blame him for that. Any how, it is definite that I should say good-bye. I should have been much happier, if kochejamanan had relieved me from the services. If he had told me ďnot to wait or to get out,Ē I neednít have to ponder very much over it. That's all.
Kalyani amma: Look here. Karthu is my daughter. I revealed that fact. All are happy to know about it, which was beyond my expectations. I have thought of you only as a member of this house. It is not a pleasant thing to send one amongst us away in the midst of this rejoicing.
(Madhavan stands silent)
Moreover, her marriage is also fixed. Probably Madhavan is also aware of it. You know how difficult it will be for us to conduct a wedding with a fresh hand? (Looks at Madhavanís face expecting a positive reply from him)
(Madhavan is still silent with a down-cast look)
Inspite of all this, if Madhavan wants to go, then we can think of it once the function is over. Perhaps, by then, these ill feelings also would subside.
Madhavan: Kochamma, myself and kochamma came to this house almost at the same time. I was about fifteen then. When I called you Ďkochammaí and addressed him as ďmoopparí I felt the happiness of addressing my own mother and father. That attachment is still fresh in my mind. It gives me confidence and so I want to open up with you. Will you get hurt, kochamma?
Kalyani amma: Madhavan, Speak up! I too didnít think otherwise of you.
Madhavan: If Karthu is your daughter, it is imperative that I leave this house. Earlier the better.
Kalyani amma: (Worried) Whatís the matter?
Madhavan: Till yesterday, I have been giving orders to her. She had been a girl waiting by my side, sometimes afraid of me, and at other times expecting my favours. Now she happenes to be one who would be giving me orders, just like Ďkochejamanan.í I have to bow before her like I do in the presence of ĎUsha kochammaí because she happens to be Ďkochammaí to bless me with her benefactions, for my small little needs. Suppose we are not assuming such positions, then it would be bad for kochammaís daughter. It would be bad for me too. One can easily rise to the position of a boss. Human tendency is always to come up in life. Nobody would like to degrade himself.
Kalyani amma: (Immersed in thought) What you speak is quite true. We have raised her to our status. But in your case, you have to look up to her from now on. Still, we canít think of sending you away from us. (Sits down reposing for some time) If such a grief was not there, probably the earth would not have been able to bear my happiness. Madhav! God gave me enough. But it was after twenty three years of weeping. Now God is taking back a little bit of it from me. Unfortunately, it happened quite abruptly. (Again becomes immersed in thought)
(Enters Gopinatha menon. He looks at Madhavan and Kalyani Amma and occupies a chair close to Kalyani Amma).
Kalyani amma: Madhavan wants to be relieved from here.
Gopinatha menon: So be it. (To Madhavan) When do you want to go?
Madhavan: (In the same tone of coldness) Now itself.
Usha: (Enters) Amma, edathi says with determination.
Kalyani amma: (Anxiously) What?
Usha: That she is not agreeable to the proposed marriage.
(Kalyani amma sits, silent and dumb)
Gopinatha menon: Did we act with undue haste?
Usha: Not at all! There is something more to it.
Kalyani amma: (With fear and suspicion) What is that?
Gopinatha menon: (In the same tone) What else is the matter?
Usha: Amma! Donít get upset! (Looks indignantly at Madhavan)
Kalyani amma: Please tell me what it is. Did she commit any blunder?
Usha: Nothing. But she is bent upon doing something disagreeable.
Kalyani ama: I donít understand anything.
Usha: 1 shall tell you. When it is known to all, why should I conceal? Edathi wants Madhavan as her husband.
Kalyani amma: (Looks at Madhavan furiously) Oh! you sinner
(Gopinatha menon stands still as though he is struck by thunder bolt).
Madhavan: (Partly to himself) It is not my fault, not hers either. We had been here together for the last thirteen years, as servant and maid. Love is no sin between human beings.
Gopinatha menon: Is there any payment left?
Madhavan: No.
Gopinatha menon: Then you may leave; right now.
Madhavan: This is the house where I have been living and working for the past twenty three years.
Gopinatha menon: What do you want? Any amount apart from your salary?
Madhavan: Money! Keep it with you. Canít I bid farewell to everyone here? Vallya kochamma, ... I am leaving.
Karthiayani: (Enters) Wait. (To Kalyani amma) Amma, I canít allow this man to go alone.
Kalyani amma: (Completely exhausted) Are you ruining your brother?
Karthiayani: Amma! You made me a princess. You could do it in a day. But only my body could accept it. My heart is not in tune with it.
Usha: Edathi, where did you get this heart from? You have your amma who looked after you for twenty three years. Don't you have any consideration for her? When it was known that you are his sister, your brother was ready to disregard even his own wife...to love and respect you. Wonít you care for him? How can you disregard him?
Karthiayani: Usha, you don't know half the things. You will understand it only if I could rip open my heart and show it to you. There you will find me prostrated in front of these people, never raising even a finger against them. But that is in response to their kindness. But such considerations will not be a hindrence to true love.
Usha: Edathi, you need not talk like this. What is so noble of the servant of this house to love, except his impertinence!
Madhavan: Kochamma, you wonít have any more of trouble with this imperitment fellow. Why then beat a dead person?
Karthiayani: Usha, Look here. All of you began to shower love upon me when you knew that I am the daughter of this amma. On the other hand, when I was the maid servant, this man was ready to love me, help me and adore me. You donít know. It's not only that he did all his duties in this house, but he did part of my work too; though no one knew about it. Even if he is a servant, he is a man. On certain evenings, when I am tired of the dayís toil, he would send me to bed early and washed the dirty linen by himself. It is presumed by all that I have been washing these clothes. He bore the whole brunt of his work too. There are hundreds of such things to remember... during these eleven years - what does it matter if he is a servant?
(Gangadhara menon comes ... waits there as he felt that there is something wrong about the situation)
Usha: Etta, please come with me (She goes inside. Gangadhara menon follows her)
Madhavan: Karthoo.... Do you think that these people will give you in marriage to me? Are you waiting for it? I have already said good-bye.
Karthiayani: Amma! your daughter lived only for a day. Henceforth, you may remember me as a daughter who is dead and gone!
Kalyani amma: Karthoo... I am not worried about you. Be happy with whom so ever you are with! My only recourse is to weep..not about you now;..but about my Gopi. I ruined him.
(Enter Gangadhara menon and Usha)
Gangadhara menon: Gopi! what are you going to do now?
Gopinatha menon: Two courses are open to me. Either knock down this fellowís teeth or give my sisterís hand in marriage to him. Both seems to be cruel to me. I am directing this cruelty against myself (Stands up and goes in)
Gangadhara menon: (To Usha) I don't see any scope for a reconciliation. A few hours are powerless to change age old ideals. Only one thing is possible. Be kind.
Usha: What will you tell your friends in the club?... both of you?
Gangadhara menon: I have not pledged my right to any one. The same way I agreed to marry, I reserve my right to cancel the engagement.
Usha: But, here it is not my brother who canceled this engagement.
Gangadhara menon: All the rights enjoyed by men are equally available to women. When I speak to my friends that she didnít want to marry me, I won't have any unpleasant expression on my face. (To Madhavan) Mr. Madhavan, what are your plans for the future?
Madhavan: If she agrees to come with me, we shall go to my native place by the next train. I am fully confident of getting a job elsewhere.
Gangadhara menon: If you donít misunderstand me, I have vacant houses. You may occupy one of them. I shall set up some business for you to earn a living. Thus you can lead a better social life.
Madhavan: This is indeed good fortune! Nevertheless, I canít accept such favours from someone who proposed to marry this woman. We are thankful to you. (To Karthiayani) Come! It is almost time for the train.
Karthiayani: Usha, ... tell your husband ... (Weeps ... as she is searching for words..:)

(Curtain)

Notes:

1. Mooppar : Respectable reference when the servants address the master of the house or the eldest member of the household.
2. Vallya Kochamma : Respectable term for adressing the rich ladies of noble families - more or less equal to Ďthe Grand Lady.í
2a.Kochamma : ĎLadyí in general
3. Kochejamanan : Young master of the house
4. Nirapara : Rice upheaved in a measure called para. Presented to the diety at the time of festivities as part of rituals along with other items of offerings.
5. Amma - Mother
5a : Ettan : Elder brother. Sometimes certain ladies call their husband’s also ettan.
6. Edathi: elder sister
7 : Ladies in Kerala do not address their husbands by their names. Hence Usha tells Karthiayani that she must not call her elder brother by his name. Similarly the wife of the younger brother would not address the elder sister-in-law by her name, as a mark of respect.