“O! Shiva” somebody called him from outside.
That voice sounded like Govindamma’s.
Gowri peeped out through the backyard door.
“Why don’t you reply …you rascal” her voice resounded
its Govindamma’s voice! “Is he not there?” she looked at Gowri and asked.
“No Jeji, he went to the fields..”
“Do you know what that rascal did?” though her voice was severe Gowri through experience realized that most of it was nothing but sarcasm.
So she didn’t falter.
“What did he do Jeji?” she asked.
“What to say girl,” she crossed the threshold and entered in, “A very big honeycomb was in my barn, it was there for a long time. As big as the head of a goat, believe me. It was hanging on a branch of a fencing tree. On the full moon day we get the festival, and by that time there would be more honey in it. So I thought of extracting the honey from it by that time. And I have been watching it everyday. When this rascal saw that I don’t know –even in my presence he intruded in, shoved away the bees and took away the honey comb!
Though I yelled at him he never stopped. I requested at least to give me some honey, what he said did you know? I am unable to lick the honey. Not only that, he said I would smear it on my mustaches then they turn white and glisten … am I a male to have mustaches and beard?”
Gowri couldn’t control her laugh.
She went to the other side of the half wall and hid her face in her palloo.
Here and there on Govindamma’s face under her nose and on the chin very thick hair protruded out.
Shiva might have teased her noticing it.
Laughing she took out the honey dish.
“He told me to give you honey if you come. Many villagers would be there at the barn, and it won’t be sufficient to give it there, so he brought it home” she said.
“About the honey it’s ok. But why did he mention about my mustaches dear” the old lady asked hissing with passion.
“Stretch your palm” Gowri said.
Still grumbling Govindamma stretched her palm.
Bringing out her tongue to lick the honey she had it and made a sound to show its taste.
“Oh, rascal! How tasty it is,” rebuking Shiva, licking it with tongue, enjoying it she entertained Gowri.
After her Ramanamma came, talked about Shiva. Asked her the trick with which she turned him into a pet bird, inquired her about their shifting to town.
“What curry did you cook?” asked.
“I thought of drumsticks” Ramanamma said.
Gowri looked at her quizzically.
After talking a while with her she came to know the meaning of her words. Somebody has stolen the drumsticks from her courtyard and she had the doubt on Shiva.
Not just about the drumsticks, he waited for a chance and when she was taking her bath he plucked the drumsticks away. If someone climbs the short wall at the drumstick tree her bathing behind the bamboo wall would turn public. She doubted that somebody saw her naked. But she didn’t spell it out.
Seeing her trouble Gowri felt of giggling. Shiva didn’t bring the drumsticks. So she felt relieved and laughed within.
Recently such complaints on him increased a lot.
After Sarojamma’s second time visit and her announcing about taking them to the town some change has come in his actions.
Sarojamma’s anxiety for her daughter brought a lot of changes in him. When he came to know Gowri’s food habits he was anxious to give her new tastes. When he was walking in the fields whatever edible leaves come on his way, he plucks them to bring home. For vegetables he started even going to the neighboring villages. He was struggling a lot for the mushrooms that grow at the edges of marshes when the thunder grumbles. When he watches them, without anyone’s knowledge he uproots them, conceals in his towel and brings them home. Pleading the women addressing them ‘sister’ and ‘aunty’ he brings whatever is available. If he comes to know about the honeycomb wherever it might be he goes there walking. Whatever be the height of the tree he climbs it. Rushes into the bushes, crawls on the crags, shoving away the bees brings home the honey running fast.
Though his friends follow him, without making himself available to them he enters home and puts it in her hands. He teaches her to make rotis and to eat them dipping in honey.
Once, the honey bees attacked him. Keeping her hand on his bee-stung red body he chuckled. Her eyes turned wet with tears. She cried bitterly. He laughed still louder.
“The bees wouldn’t have bitten me, but people were coming from the other side of the barn, if they watch me, we will not get the honey home. So without shoving away the bees I brought the comb with its branch running. The bees on the comb got up and gathered around my body.” He explained the reason.
“Why do you have the misery? Can’t you give them some?”
“They ate a lot. You haven’t, so I brought it for you….”
She felt highly moved and hugged him powerfully and forgot the world around.
From someone in the village he even purchased ten kgs of groundnuts and kept them for her. –in the after noon if she feels she could fry them and eat.
He brought four Kgs of Ulavas for making guggillu.
He started attacking secretly on the drumstick trees and flower beds of the village.
In the beginning people felt surprised but now they started responding pleasantly. How he troubles himself to please her taste made them laugh.
“If you bring a working ox, its ok, but if you have an ox just for adoring you should face troubles like Shiva…” they started showing a finger at him.
Either at midday or at break fast time bringing their Sangati in their hands women barge into the house, each one have a spoon of curry from the pot and start mocking—“ these are the beans from Subbanna’s garden. How did this boy enter their home?” they mock him.
When he goes towards the fields some edible fruit or root or vegetable –whatever is available, even a flower to decorate, he hides it and brings it home. When they start a new cart and distribute dal and roasted rice or if they give something at the temple (a newly wed girl after taking blessings gives the passers by dry fruits and sugar crystals with betel nuts and leaves), even if they serve sweet and hot in wedding feasts without bothering about surrounding people and what they think, without any shame he hides and brings it home to keep in front of Gowri.
Even people understood his attitude. So when he sits in a line for food in any feast serving sweet and hot they say ‘this is for you and this one for your wife…’
They serve him extra and laugh at him but he never cared them. Moreover he asks them for a paper to pack, adds even his share to it and takes them home.
Let this be at the fields or at the trees they should keep two shares for him and mock at him laughing.
“Why did he get two shares?” if someone questions
“Ok let him take. He has a wife” they giggle.
As if he brought a rare flower and taking care of it keeping his palms around it to see that it would not shrivel – is his anxiety for Gowri.
“If this girl gets pregnancy, he will bear the labor pains” a woman relative teased him.
“Are you scrubbing your wife’s back?” another lady, related as aunty mocked at him.
“If the slippers are nice are we going to wear them in the neck? You should keep the things where they belong” an old man advised.
“After his marriage we couldn’t bear our women’s pestering. They expect us to sit in front of them, they await us to feed them and we should walk together they say. Where did you learn all these, my son…” his friends augmented him.
“We went on telling them that she eloped here with him. If he didn’t look after her so affectionately she wouldn’t stay here in this village, did they pay heed? No! They ask us what would have happened if we brought them here eloping? What to do?” A friend enacted whimper.
A newly married bride murmured with another newly married girl
“How can everyone get a husband like Shivanna?”
Though he heard all, he walked forth with a smile. He felt that all the comments added inspiration to his duty.
Gowri felt surprised. She wondered that though many people mocked at him he didn’t move at all. Though she felt proud of the special respect accorded by Shiva which no one in the village has ever received, she even felt the pain as he has to bear the mockery because of her. She felt shy as if all the villagers were looking at her oddly.
So in a low voice she said one night
“When you go out, you mix with them all Bava! Forget about me”
He stared as if he couldn’t understand.
“Why don’t we express our liking for each other at home alone? Isn’t it enough?”
He looked still puzzled.
“If you attend a wedding feast, have you to bring sweet and hot for me asking them and packing? Has anyone done this way for his wife except you? Don’t you feel anything if they laugh at you?” she asked.
Shiva breathed easily and left a sigh.
He looked as if saying ‘this much?’
“Didn’t you feel bad if your friends keep two servings in front of you teasing and telling ‘this is for your wife and this one for you’, Bava?” looking into his eyes she asked.
Shiva sat in front of her on the cot in padmasana. He heard her completely with closed eyes. As she completed he opened his eyes, looking into her eyes he said
“Why do we bother about others?”
Looking deep into her eyes, he continued
“Let it be bitter or sweet I feel like eating it together. What do they know except laughing?”
With this he held her head in his two hands and brought her close to him.
“It’s not that you never tasted the hot or sweet. I never meant that you have not tasted the fruits of the village Gowrie. I don’t feel like eating alone. When we both eat together then only I can enjoy eating. So I bring everything home. Let them laugh. We are not doing any bad thing? As they laugh and laugh they get tired. Let anyone laugh or smile I can’t eat anything without sharing it with you. Let it be trouble or comfort, we both should face it together….” he went on telling. She couldn’t utter a word. She could even realize that her eyes turned and remained wet even after a long time.
She leaned on his chest as she couldn’t control her emotion. This single incident made her desire his closeness very strongly within her heart. It made her feel anxious even if she couldn’t see him for an hour. She felt a strong desire to spend with him most of her time. She couldn’t tolerate if neighboring ladies sit with her for a long time. –she felt that they obstruct their privacy.
To tease him and laugh at him both wife and husband provided the villagers a new thing each day.
Original Novel by Sannapureddy venkataramireddy
English Version by Swathee sripada