She decided to leave him. This is the end. She would never return. Kamala was thirty eight. She reached home walking very fast. As if to leave at that moment. She opened the door of the small one room plus kitchen plus open verandah home. Her children were away. She looked around the house as if to survey her belongings. Sarees, children’s dresses and one of his Dhotis were hanging precariously as these were thrown on the cloths-line carelessly. The slender rope might give away under its weight any moment. She cannot tolerate the verbal abuse anymore. Is she a wife or what? After eight years of marriage he points out some incident in her past and abuses her. You cannot abuse me only because you rescued me from the dark. I can go it alone. She took the small trunk and started collecting whatever clothes she could. Suddenly she remembered her children. She went out of the house and called their names, ‘Mohan….. Mohan… Devi …. Devi….’ Devi came immediately from nowhere. She said ‘Amma, brother is playing there. I will bring’. Kamala went inside her house. She looked at her wrist watch she bought immediately after her appointment in the Government. IT was seven thirty. The train to Madras will depart at seven forty five.
Kamala locked the house and turned back and looked at it for one last time. There was no horse-cart in sight. This is like. When she needs urgently, nothing is available. She walked energetically towards the main street. She has to reach the Railway Station within 10 minutes. She walked fast. The trunk was heavy. Children could not walk as fast. Every burden she has to bear. Is this destiny. How quickly she could reach the Station? She may miss the train. Then what? She would not. She was gasping for breath. Anger and burden. She has to go away. She heard her inner voice again and again. TO show him that he cannot take her for granted. Who is he? Husband? She has deserted her father ten years ago and survived alone in this world. Could not she? now?
She noticed that there was a Horse-cart at the end of this street. From there it may take ten minutes to the station. When she went near the cart, she shouted, ‘Madras passenger..?’ The cart-man seemed to understand her urgency. He took the trunk and placed it inside the cart and went to the front and sat. Kamala and Children boarded. The man goaded the animal and it started the run.
Every minute seemed like a hell for her. Would they catch the train? She prayed to her favourite god Ambal. She would protect her. She was with her.
When they reached the Railway Station Gates, the train had already arrived at the station. Cart-man helped her to carry the trunk inside the Station. He cannot go beyond. By the time she paid him money, the Station Master gave the whistle for departure. He noticed them and told her to board the train and take the ticket from the Conductor. The driver of the train also blew engine’s whistle. The conductor of the nearest coach saw them coming. The train started to move and the conductor walked along slowly expecting to help the three passengers. Kamala and children ran towards the coach. Conductor took the trunk and threw it inside the coach and helped the children to get in quickly and extended his hand and helped Kamala to board the train. Strangers have always helped Kamala. Train picked up speed. Once inside, Conductor asked, where are you going? Till then Kamala had not thought about it. During the few seconds it took her to take money out of her purse, she decided the place, Pondicherry. She did not know why.
After settling down in the seat, she looked around. Only three of them were in the coupe. The coach was half empty. The dim yellow light inside the coach was enough. She looked outside through the Window. IT was very dark all around. Clink-clank –dun- dun of the train filled her ear and mind. She had travelled in the trains before. Not very frequently. But enough to know that more passengers would come in at Madurai.
Kamala had been to Madurai before. She lived in the GOodshed street for some years when she was a child. She joined Madurai Medical College for a Course in Nursing Assistant and stayed there for a year. One of her former teacher had helped her with a certificate of passing 8th class, the minimum educational qualification for joining the course. He had pitied her condition. Strangers have always helped her, not her relations. She was escaping from her past, the past that haunted her and would continue to haunt her for the rest of her life. Is this fate? Her tears would wash these thoughts.
She recalled that she was called for an interview at Ten thirty. She stood in front of the interview Board. There was an Englishman, she looked at closely for the first time, an Indian, Shanmugam Chetty, who she had heard of and an Englishwomen, in the uniform of a nurse. Kamala could not look at them straight.
‘What is your name?’ the women asked her in anglicized Tamil.
‘Please look at straight’ She could not.
'Have you studied up to eighth standard?’
Kamala shook her head up and down to signal yes.
‘Please give me your certificate’.
She knew what the certificate said was not true. Her teacher had told her to keep quiet in the interview and that they would understand her silence and she obeyed him. She had attended class seven for some days and she was forced to stop the education. There were troubles in the family. Her father or mother could not manage the trouble. Her mother had gone blind and her deaf and dumb brother had to be admitted to a special school for education. Her father had deserted her mother.
After looking at the certificate Kamala gave to her, the Englishwomen shouted in shock, ‘Oh, you are a Brahmin widow? When were you married?’