Serial Novel -The Second Choice Chapter12
by Lakshmi Menon
Return to Chapter 11
A fortnight had passed without much ado. Monday came all too soon. It was a moody, fitful sort of a day with gusts of wind. The clouds were low, scudding across the sky from the Southwest, threatening rain before evening. Pavithra thought it would certainly rain.
When Venu returned home he had a registered letter with him. He handed her the opened cover, addressed to him and turned his face. She took out the letter with trembling hands, looking in his direction, and read its contents. It was from Anand’s father to Venu, asking to release their granddaughter to her natural father’s house as she belonged to their family. He had been requested to convince his wife somehow or other.
Pavithra stared at the words. Gradually, she found her eyes filled to such an extent that she could hardly see through her tears, which blurred her vision. Venu smiled at her, as if he had heard her unspoken words. Unable to stand before him, swallowing her anger and despair towards her father-in-law, she went off into the kitchen as a dutiful wife and soon reappeared with a cup of hot coffee for Venu. She noticed his eyes searching for his daughter. Finally it rested on Anu, who was sitting in the bed with her new book and leafing through its pages.
He had brought some peanuts with him, which he gave her affectionately. She gratefully accepted the packet and before he could ask her anything she turned to Venu and said, “Daddy, Indu chechi has not yet come back home.” Since she became friendly with her stepfather she began to call him Daddy and Indu as her older sister.
“Where’s Indu?” asked Venu surprisingly, looking at his watch.
He then remembered that it was a holiday for the
children. “She went in the morning to play and has not yet come back home. Mummy called her several times, but she refused to come. She is always like this, Daddy. She doesn’t listen to Mummy at all.”
Anu gave her mother, who was ironing the clothes, a quick look as if she had made a difficult task easy for her mother. Pavithra nudged her daughter for having given him such unpleasant news. Venu caught her attention. She was worried what would happen next. He stared at his wife in disbelief. He couldn’t believe it. Why didn’t she bring it to his notice still? Wasn’t it her duty to tell him if his daughter was not obeying her? All he could see in her eyes was helplessness and fear which had prevented her from talking him about his daughter.
Seeing her helpless look Venu’s face changed suddenly. He stood up and stretched his arms above his head, “Oh, Great heaven!” He broke off and clapped his hands on his knee in consternation. He felt hot and cold.
He paced the room like a caged lion. After a minute or so, he went out and returned home with Indu, who had a scared look, and took her to the terrace. While Anu wanted to join them Pavithra held her back. Venu would prefer to be alone with his daughter at this precarious moment. Even Indu wouldn’t like her sister’s presence there.
“Why do you want to go there?” Pavithra scolded her daughter. He would have probably decided to scold Indu, which naturally would be better in privacy. She was glad for this unexpected encounter of Indu’s father to come and see for himself how she was spending her time in the evenings and coming home late.
Soon she felt sorry for her stepdaughter. As she wanted to avoid witnessing the unpleasant situation between the father and daughter she slowly went and stood by the window looking westward towards the setting sun when Anu came and pulled her sari. Anu was worried for her sister being scolded or beaten up by her father. She was looking guilty for letting this happen.
“Don’t worry child. Nothing will happen.” Stroking her shining black hair Pavithra comforted her.
Silent moments had passed. Fifteen minutes later Venu came down
with his daughter calm and cool. Indu studiously avoided looking in her stepmother’s direction.
With a throbbing heart, Pavithra looked silently at her stepdaughter whom she loved very dearly though she refused to reciprocate it. Indu’s hair was left loose and her frock mud-stained as though she was doing some sort of hard work in the mud. Suddenly Indu turned and gave her stepmother a ferocious look, as though she was scolded because of her. Both Pavithra and Anu wanted to console her, but seeing her fierce look, hesitated to move even a step further. She would tolerate her father’s scolding, but not from the intruders in her life.
But Pavithra couldn’t stay that way for a long time. Her motherly mind prompted her to talk to her. “Indu, darling,” she held her hand.
“You, wicked woman, don’t touch me!” Indu almost spat out the words and stood up like an angry tigress furious and thwarted. Her words were like a slap on her stepmother’s face.
That moment Pavithra felt the whole world going around her. She had expected some protest from the girl, but it was too much for any young girl to talk so viciously. Where did she pick up such dirty words? How could she befriend her? Pavithra wondered. She only hoped that Venu had not heard it. She had seen him going to the toilet.
Indu, the girl on whom she wanted to lavish with a mother’s love and care which she had missed in her life, behaved so rudely….! Poor girl. She had assumed that her stepmother had spied on her and complained to her father about her coming home late from the neighbour’s house. She had trusted her neighbour, but not her stepmother.
She wished Indu understood her better and saw a loving mother in her. She ached to hug her and whisper to her ears thousand times. If there were a way to open out her mind and show it to her she would have done it gladly. Pavithra consoled herself with the thought that time would teach her stepdaughter. ****************
Anu was admitted to the same school where Indu studied. Since her class was in the morning shift Venu took her on his cycle to the school, on his way to office. In the afternoons Pavithra went and picked her up.
As the days passed Pavithra began to regret not having a job. If she had a job she would have got some diversion from this world of disappointment.
She had been trying her level best to find a job. Her repeated requests to Venu did not bear any fruit. He showed no interest at all in her employment. She felt miserable to stay there with Venu and Indu where her presence was not at all needed now. All that she had been doing was that of an unpaid servant. Indu had her Vasanthi aunt who would continue to look after her better than before. In Indu’s eyes, her stepmother was her enemy who had come into her life to steal her happiness by taking away her father from her. If she had a job she could stand on her own feet and relieve him of their responsibility.
Pavithra often wondered what was going on in Venu’s mind. She felt that probably he too must be thinking in the same way: that he had not only remarried but taken additional responsibility. His marriage had helped him only in reducing his household work. His only intention of marrying Pavithra was to get a mother for his daughter, which was proved futile now.
When Venu was at home in the evenings, he spent time chatting with Anu and Indu, oblivious of her presence there. He had nothing much to share with her. What made him change his attitude to her, Pavithra wondered.
She had only one consolation that he loved Anu and gave her the much needed fatherly affection. He was successful in being a father to his stepdaughter, unlike Pavithra. He patted her, talked to her affectionately, listened to her and cracked jokes with her like a friend. To be continued