2nd Innings – Part 2

“Sir, Sir”, sang a dulcet voice. Kumari wiped her hands in her sari and hurried to the front door. A doe-eyed, tall, lissome girl was waiting on the threshold. “Yes, what do you need?”, Kumari asked the radiant vision in a neatly pressed Salwar suit. The girl superbly ignored her, her restless eyes darting hither and thither. “Sir, Muthu Sir”, tittered the girl again.

Kumari felt gauche. Good-looking young women always made her feel inadequate. This one even had perfectly manicured hands. While she had a crumpled cotton sari on and a dosa batter streaked face. Perhaps she thinks I’m the domestic help, thought Kumari and winced. Hell, I look like one.

“If you are looking for Muthu, he just stepped outside”, she explained. As if not believing her, the girl’s eyes bored through the walls, attempting to look through the concrete.

Just then, Muthu entered and did a double take. “Oh, Nalini! What a pleasant surprise. Come in, Come in”, he breezed expansively. “Sir, I just wanted to tell you that the rice sacks have arrived”, said Nalini. “That’s good, that’s good”, beamed Muthu. “You must have a cup of coffee with me before leaving!”. The girl looked a little surprised. “Because, er, you’ve done a superb job”, he added lamely.

Benevolence is always on tap when pretty girls are involved, thought Kumari wryly. She wondered if Nalini was batting her voluminous eyelashes excessively, but she wasn’t sure. Maybe I’m imagining it, she thought. I’m becoming insecure and that makes me feel so – helpless. “One or two cubes of sugar?”, she asked the girl in a squeaky voice. Damn, I should try to be more natural, poised, at ease. The girl looked at her askance and signaled 2.

Muthu was in high spirits for the rest of the day. “Isn’t the world beautiful today, Kumari?” he asked. Kumari wondered if the day’s beauty had anything to do with Nalini. “About the girl”, she said. “Nalini? What about her?” stammered Muthu. “ I saw you giving her the eye”. Muthu blushed a deep red. “Don’t talk nonsense, Kumari”, he said.

Kumari looked at him with interest. So, it was that bad. She exhaled deeply. Nalini was almost half her age. I could be her mother, thought Kumari. Its only natural that he’s attracted to her, she told herself. After all, he’s only 20. And I’m 32.

* * * * *

“What is this, Kumari?” yelled Muthu. “This fish curry is inedible!” – he threw the plate towards her. Kumari shivered and picked up the plate. All these months with Muthu and she was still getting used to his temper tantrums. She tasted the curry – it was bland, tasteless. “I forgot to add salt”, she mumbled.

“Pay some attention to what you do, will you?”, he said in a low voice, seething. His face looked transformed, ugly. Kumari closed her eyes. “Will you please stop shouting?” she said. “Chettiar never threw things at me”, the words slipped out of her. “Oh!” said Muthu. “I had forgotten that you have a point of reference! In what other ways was he better than me?”

Kumari’s face burned in shame. A lone tear streaked down her cheeks. Immediately, Muthu was contrite. “I’m so sorry darling, I shouldn’t have said that,” he moaned. “You’re my one true love”. There’s no true love, thought Kumari. You just pick the best from what’s available. Its funny he doesn’t know that, she thought. After all, he’s only 20 and I’m 32.

“Why don’t you sit down?” she said aloud, managing a smile. “I’ll make you some dosas quickly”. “No, I’m taking my queen today to a restaurant. I won’t let her slave away in the kitchen” said Muthu, hugging her tight. “Aren’t you my pootie-pie, my snoogie-woogie?”, he crooned in baby-talk. For some inexplicable reason, Kumari felt like gagging. Feeling straitjacketed, she slowly released herself from his grip.

* * * * *

Muthu had taken to drink. After a drink, he was a beast, not himself. Kumari didn’t mind the drinking binges. Men need their entertainment, she thought vaguely. But the physical abuse was humiliating and de-basing. Vaguely, she wondered if Chettiar drank. If he did, she certainly did not know. His comportment was always perfect.

How did I fall for Muthu, wondered Kumari. Was it the music? Kumari used to sing in concerts. Used to. Nobody in the Chettiar household had an ear for music. Almost tone-deaf, thought Kumari. If she started singing, Chettiar would yell from his room after 5 minutes – “Can you stop that caterwauling?” he would say. “Man, I work like a dog in the store and you can’t even give me peace and quiet”.

But, Muthu was different. He urged her to sing songs, whenever they snatched a few moments of privacy. Muthu doesn’t ask me to sing anymore – thought Kumari, feeling a little surreal. She shook her head, as if to dispel the thought.

“Its hard to say why people fall in love” she told granny.  “To Chettiar, I was the ideal housekeeper, a mom for his children. I was – a non-entity, I had no intrinsic value”. But Muthu had talked to her, as if she really mattered.

“Muthu came home often, we met regularly,” she said. We had to, she thought defensively – because of Chettiar’s business. “And when people are thrown together often – things happen”.

* * * * *

“I’m sorry I slapped you”, stammered Muthu. “I’m a beast, I shouldn’t have done that!”. Kumari covered her cheek with her palm. She wondered if her face was swollen. “Sorry, sorry, sorry” bleated Muthu. “I should have controlled my temper!”

“Could you please leave me alone?” asked Kumari shakily. “Of course, of course. Anything for you” he said hastily, trying to placate her.

Left alone, Kumari struggled with the pieces of the jigsaw that were her life. Marrying Chettiar was not her choice – it had been arranged by her father. Many a sleepless night she had wondered, how life would have turned out if she had made a choice. And, then she had chosen Muthu. What did she have to say about their partnership, she wondered.

And then it hit her. She moved to their bedroom resolutely and started packing her belongings in a trunk. It took her 5 minutes.

I’m tired of leaning on men, using them as a walking stick – she thought. First, it was Chettiar and then it was Muthu – Neither man let me be. Not all women bloom in the company of men. I don’t need a husband to make me feel whole.

“Where are you going?” stammered Muthu. Kumari took a deep breath. “I’m leaving”, she said in an even tone. “Look, I’m sorry I hit you”, he pleaded, white-faced. “And I’ll stop drinking, I promise”. Then he started crying with intense self-pity. “I don’t have anyone else, please don’t leave me”.

She looked at him with sympathy, tinged with faint disgust. Muthu doesn’t look handsome when he’s crying, she thought critically. His features were contorted and his jaw was quivering like a girl’s.

Something tugged at her heart, but she knew what she had to do. “Its not because of you”, she said. “Is it about Nalini?” quavered Muthu. “She means nothing to me. You’re my everything!”

“No, its about me”, said Kumari and she started walking away. “After all, you’re 20 and I’m 32”.


  1. Quote
    Aravind said April 29, 2011, 12:17 pm:

    Again, very well written and towards the end, perfect liberation through her unfortunate experiences. Doubt it would have worked out if she is 20 and he is 32? Any scope for Part 3?

  2. Quote

    Aravind – Thanks for your comment & kind words.

    She’s 32 and he’s 20. This didn’t work out for Kumari & Muthu. It might have worked out for a different couple. And sorry, there’s no part-3 – We have to imagine what Kumari will do with her life 😉

  3. Quote

    That ended too quickly!! 🙂
    And yes, I agree its a nice finish.

  4. Quote

    Sriram – Thanks for your comment & kind words.

  5. Quote

    I liked this post too, but just a small note… “After all he is 20 and I’m 32” was used a little too often don’t you think? If you wanted, maybe you could phrase it differently…just a suggestion…

  6. Quote

    Shruti – Thanks for your comment & feedback.

  7. Quote

    So no one here feels what kumari did was wrong.. and to justify her, the chettiyar was made a villain, and kumari as a victim who escaped her..

  8. Quote

    Senthil – Thanks for your comment.

    According to my story, Kumari didn’t divorce Chettiar – she simply ran away. Of course what she did was wrong.

    I haven’t made anyone a villain, if you care to step beyond stereotypes a la Tamil movies. I have merely presented what the characters do, without judging the actions of anyone.

    I can’t dictate what my characters do – once a plot occurs to me, I have to go where the characters take me.

  9. Quote
    Sudha Krishnasamy said April 29, 2011, 6:45 pm:


    A very well written story! An Excellent Ending! How many women realize that they need to lean on themself? I like the ending. I wish most women were like that. Probably cultural values blind some. Once they lean on themself, then they can view the world differently. more like give and take with respect for each other.


  10. Quote

    Sudha – Thanks for your comment & kind words.

    I once read that, if you can’t be happy single, don’t get married. One should be comfortable in their skin, otherwise they’ll make poor choices in life, I think.

  11. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said April 29, 2011, 7:31 pm:

    Great ending Priya. Quite bold of Kumari to do what she did. As someone said eloquently “a broken marriage is better than a bad marriage”.

  12. Quote

    Sukumar – Thanks for your comment.

    Yes indeed. A broken marriage is better than a bad marriage. BTW, the person who said that was my mom 😉

  13. Quote
    Kavitha (subscribed) said April 30, 2011, 7:26 am:

    Priya – That was a good ending. I really liked the way Kumari took a stance that she does not need a husband to make her feel whole !
    Look forward to such stories where desicions made are liberating to an individual and not because of plain social conditioning

  14. Quote

    Kavitha – Thanks for your comment & kind words.

  15. Quote

    Hi Priya it is a great story. Shows some character in kumari and true spirit of liberation. I think the main important thing in any marriage is showing respect, tolerance and true love for each other, otherwise broken marriage is better than bad marriage. However when it comes to children it becomes a different story and integrity of marriage somewhat becomes important. We had a session in our team to share some of their candid experiences and interestingly many of the team members had shared the difficult experience was when parents broke up. They do recover but it is still not the whole anymore… Very interesting and bold ending. Liked it… 🙂

  16. Quote

    Sudha – Thanks for your comment & kind words.

    I agree with you, unless there’s mutual respect & trust, no relationship is possible.

    Perhaps Kumari didn’t do a right thing by her step-children. Then again, perhaps she didn’t bond enough with them or they with her, so the effect on the kids is minimal.

  17. Quote
    Macchu (subscribed) said May 2, 2011, 9:24 pm:

    Finally got to read the story 🙂 Good narration.

    I wish Kumari should have walked out(alone) from Chettiar , instead of going into another failed relationship. But I guess, people learn better from repeated mistakes huh?.I know of a girl who did the same.We have no idea about the second relationship though.Hope like Kumari she is in a better place(?).

  18. Quote
    Ganesh said May 5, 2011, 4:08 am:

    Nice ending. Felt the story ended too quickly. Glad it was not a sad ending :).

  19. Quote
    Vamsi (subscribed) said May 8, 2011, 8:19 pm:

    I waited for both parts before commenting.

    Nice story. I think it has layers of dependency levels, maturity, needs of men vs woman and age related insecurity etc interwoven. I think in our society for every Kumari who walked out of the relationship, there will 1000 kumari’s who will be compromising and living with life as it comes.


  20. Quote
    Nimmy (subscribed) said May 18, 2011, 4:02 pm:

    I was away from Twitter for a while and did not realize Part 2 was out! 🙂 Lovely ending. Amen. (More like a meaningful Art-movie than a Masala-movie ;-))

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