An Apology,too late.It was a pleasant evening. Arundati sat in the veranda, watching the setting sun. She was sipping her coffee and also as is her wont had a book on her lap..Several emotions were crisscrossing her mind as she recalled the past. Her past was intermingled with her mother in law, Hema’s story. She decided to write Hema’s story,most of which her mother in law had told her at different times. It dated back to the thirties of the last century. Srirangapatnam, situated on the banks of the river Cauvery, was something of a cross between a village and a town.It had a scenic beauty, with the river flowing full. It was famous for the Lakshmi Narasimhar temple with its devotees thronging at all times.It is said that Tipu Sultan, now a controversial figure,was also a devotee and used to visit the temple daily to offer his prayers Hema, a girl of twelve, had her own group of friends to roam around and play with. Her mother, Padmasini constantly worried about how this playful girl could adjust and fit into the family she would get married into. As she watched her playing one evening, against the setting sun, she called out to her repeatedly. “Hema,Hema, how many times do I have to call you? There is so much of work to do.You have no sense of responsibity. How will you adjust when you get married any to another house?I will be blamed that I didn’t bring you up properly.” Her father,Krishnamachari ,a renowned lawyer in Mysore and surrounding towns ,was listening quietly. He intervened at last, not able to bear her scolding his only daughter,Hema. “Why do you keep on scolding her? After all she is just twelve.We can wait for a few years more.”. Padmasini knew she couldn’t argue. Hema was mighty pleased and continued playing with her friends. As luck would have it, very soon an alliance came up.Those were the days of early marriages and any girl over fifteen was considered unsuitable.The alliance was from Srinivasan,a boy of about twenty and was helping his father with their family business.Horoscopes were matched and found suitable.The traditional girl seeing ceremony was over. Hema was too young to understand.To her, it was about more silk sarees, jewels and having all her relatives coming in. With the house full of uncles, aunts and cousins, she could have a nice time.She started looking forward to the day. At last it was her day. She was married off in a grand style with friends and relatives arriving in large groups. Since it was a five day affair, there was an air of festivity around. On the day of the marriage, Hema was absolutely tired but she thoroughly enjoyed the fanfare.She was to leave for her husband’s house in Mysore and the pangs of separation set in. Hema and her mother, Padmasini were inconsolable. But as was the practice those days, she would return to her parent’s place till she attained puberty.

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