E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Shyam and Madhu (names changed) were our neighbours in Delhi. After getting his PhD in civil engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Shyam became a reader there. Like most bachelors, he too went to his hometown and got married—in his case to a beautiful Mysore girl. Madhu was an arts graduate from Manasagangotri but it was her singing and dancing that captivated people.
Often Shyam worried about his elder sister Jaya, who had remained a spinster. Shyam’s father had once taken her horoscope to a shastrigalu who, after some calculations, concluded that there was some dosha, which could result in her husband’s death soon after marriage.
Maybe the word got around among alliance seekers. Either that, or Jaya’s educational qualification, a masters in literature, daunted prospective grooms. The age to marry seemed to whiz past.
Around then, Shyam’s brother once brought his friend Shekhar to their home in Bangalore. Shekhar was in the Indian Foreign Service after topping the UPSC exams. Despite the best efforts by his mother, Shekhar had remained a bachelor and was just not interested in marriage. He was a hobby-freak and was a voracious reader.
Since he was waiting for a posting, he visited Jaya’s house often and they would discuss literature and writers. on one such visit, Shekhar learnt the underlying reason why Jaya wasn’t married.
That night Shekhar couldn’t sleep and thought long and hard. After the death of his parents, he had become sort of a loner. He felt the need of a companion for the first time in his life.
Next day when he met Jaya, he proposed to her. He was quite candid: “I had decided to remain a bachelor. Ever since we met, I have been thinking it over. I like you; if you like me too, let me know.”
“Yes, I do. But I am afraid of losing you,” said Jaya.
Shekhar convinced her saying, “These things are not in our hands.”
They were married soon after at a simple ceremony in Bangalore.
The happy couple came to Delhi. He got a posting in the Indian embassy in Washington, DC. Shekhar went through a very stringent medical checkup. He spent two days in AIIMS for tests and was given a clean chit. They gave us parties for their marriage and foreign posting. After a couple of days, Shekhar and Jaya took a flight to New York en route to Washington.
The Karnataka Sangha in Delhi IIT planned to celebrate ‘Nada Habba’ for Rajyothsava. A cultural programme with a dinner from a Karol Bagh caterer was on the menu.
Quite a few non-IIT Kannadigas of Delhi were also usually invited to participate in their functions.The rehearsals went on for a week. Our neighbour Shyam was the hero in a Kannada play. Madhu was to stage a Bharatanatyam recital. I joined the group singing folk songs and took up prompting during the play.
In the play there was a sentence: “Avaru yarigu helade heege horatu hodare namma gathi yenu?’ (“What about us if he disappears just like that?”). Quite often Shyam would miss this line and I had to prompt him from the side wing.
Since the programme was on a working day, none of us could meet during the day. We met just before the programme at the auditorium. After invocation, our group sang Kannada folk songs. Then followed Madhu’s dance in which she also danced Krishna nee begane baro. It was a moving performance from her.
During the actual performance of the play I didn’t need to prompt Shyam the lines he was most likely to forget. It came to him came this time, though I thought there was a tear in the corner of his eye when he asked, ‘Avaru yarigu helade heege horatu hodare namma gathi yenu?’
After the play ended, Shyam and Madhu hurriedly left the green room to a waiting taxi.
Before they left, Shyam told us Shekhar had died of a massive heart attack the previous night.
The attack had come on the day he had joined duty in Washington. Jaya was bringing the body to Bangalore.
Destiny had played a waiting game and had hit when Jaya’s cup of joy was full.
The dread call had come early in the morning. Keeping their frozen tears amidst burning embers in their hearts, they had sung, danced and played their roles to perfection.
Rank amateurs had risen to their highest level in life and followed the dictum, “The Show must go on.”
Madhu’s plea—‘Krishna nee begane baro—and the tear drop in the corner of Shyam’s eye during the play were real—very real.