one correction in my first part.The presiding deity in Srirangapatna is Shri Ranganathaswamy and not Shri Lakshmi Narasimhar Although There is a smaller temple for him.My sister,Sarayu Ramaswamy points out. Second part. An Apology, too late (Continued.) A few months passed by. The much awaited day of a girl transitioning to a woman, finally came; Hema attained maturity. She herself couldn’t understand much and was terrified by the changes that were occurring in her body. Her mother, Padmasini, could see the confusion and fear that her daughter was going through. She took the frightened girl into her arms and gently explained to her the facts about the body of a woman. She also spoke to her about the things that she could look forward to. In those days a girl attaining puberty was a day of celebration. These celebrations were also done to announce that a girl was ready for marriage, to welcome alliances. In case of married girls, it was to indicate that it was time for her to return to her husband’s place. Friends and relatives were called, the girl was made to sit on a mat or ‘manai’ (a small wooden platform) placed in the centre with the ladies sitting around and singing songs in praise of the Goddesses. A ‘tambulam’ consisting of betel leaves, betel nuts, haldi kumkum and coconut were given to all the women An auspicious day was chosen for Hema to return to her husband’s house in Mysore. Lots of jewels, silverware and sarees were again chosen for the young lady to carry back with her for the occasion. Her in laws and husband, Shrikant, were only too happy to welcome her back. Marriage in earnest had now begun for the young couple. Months passed by and Hema became pregnant, much to the pleasure of both sets of parents. She returned to her parents’ house for the delivery. All care was taken to keep her happy and in good humour. In short, she was pampered to the maximum. It was the thirties of the last century, when infrastructure developments were still in primitive stages; electricity being one of them. Many in those days were scared to use electricity. It was late one evening when Hema had gone to the backyard. As she searched for the switch in the dark, her hand came in contact with a live wire near the switchboard. The pain that shot through her was unbearable and she screamed in pain. Padmasini and a few others heard her screams and rushed to the spot to find her in a state of semi consciousness. The family and the neighbours who had rushed in to help were in a state of panic. That particular day, Krishnamachari had gone to Mysore for a case. Those were days of long distance trunk calls. It was hard to get through to him. A neighbour helped and Hema was shifted to an hospital in Mysore. Krishnamachari was also apprised of the situation by the neighbour and he came and quickly took control of the situation. After hours of tension and with doctors struggling, a baby boy was born. It was just that he was premature and with a congenital problem. Everyone was dumbstruck and gloom set in. The shock took some time to register among all family members. Being diagnosed with a heart problem with serious consequences, it was considered incurable at that time. Prayers were offered at all religious shrines. Hema could not face the truth and she was in a state of denial. Both sets of parents were more philosophical by taking recourse to more prayers. To quote “more things could be wrought by prayer than what the world could think for”. Medical opinions were sought from far and near, with the best possible course of treatment given. The boy was named Srivatsan, endearingly called Srini. He was a fragile child who needed constant care. But despite his condition, he was a happy child and everyone in the family flocked around this first grandchild. As days went by, Hema gave birth to another child. It became increasingly difficult for her to handle two children, especially with one needing special attention. Her mother in law, Kamalam, was still coming to terms with her grandson being born with a heart defect. The family business was now running into losses. The medical expenses became a bit of a strain on the family’s finances. Everything seemed dark and dismal. Hema shuttled between Mysore and Srirangapatna. She often felt she would snap under the pressure of handling two boys; she was barely a child herself but with responsibilities which called for strength and resolve beyond her age. While all of this happened, there was someone watching this in this family closely from the sidelines. Ambujam, a close relative of the Srinivasachar family had lost her husband soon after marriage and had no children. She herself was well off with substantial family inheritances. She not only longed for children of her own but could also afford to raise them well, including incurring the heavy medical expenses. After a lot of deliberation, she decided to approach Kamalam, Hema’s mother in law. She spoke with an air of dignity, saying “I have approached you with lot of hesitation since it is a delicate subject. If you all agree, I would like to adopt Srini. I will look after him like my own son. God has provided me enough to spend for his medical expenses.” At first no one was willing even to consider it. Srinivasachachar was adamant in not wanting to ‘give away’ his grandson but Krishnamachari was more practical. He argued that the child would get the due attention required for his condition along with a mother’s love and affection. Gradually everyone, except his own daughter, began to see his point of view. The idea of giving her son away broke her heart but there was little she could do, especially since the family,s finances were down. It was finally decided that Srini would be given up for adoption to Ambujam, on the condition that they would be allowed to visit him at their will. Since she was a relative and staying in Mysore, this seemed to be a minor problem. An auspicious day was selected and he was given in adoption. Hema’s heart was heavy with grief when the day arrived but she made herself believe that it was the best for her child The year was 1940 and he was barely two. Ambujam looked at her new son who would become the focus of her life for the years to come with love and pride. He would later grow up to be a cheerful, sunny personality and cared little about his physical condition. He was thin as a reed and easily turned breathless at the slightest exertion. When tired, he sat and watched others play. There were days when he was ill for long stretches of time. During these bouts of illness, Srinivasachar, his paternal grandfather, often visited him, sat by his side and read stories from the the Ramayana and Mahabharata to him. As he looked at the frail but spirited boy, he often ruffled his hair and said to him affectionately “Don’t worry, my child. One day you will grow up to be as strong as Bheema”. (To be continued)


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