For the twenty four year old Radha, this was the happiest day of her life. It was the early seventies, and like many girls her age, she was soon to get married. But then, unlike many girls her age, she had completed her post graduation (MSC in Biology to be specific) with first class that day. Back home, her father was elated to hear the news. His daughter, the most intelligent of his three children, the shy and humble Radha, had added another feather in his cap. Her mother was happy too because she had managed to arrange a perfect alliance for her daughter. Radha was well past the marriageable age, her mother thought.
Radha’s fiancé was every mother’s dream son-in- law, an engineer, into government service in Kalpakam, quarters, job security , travel allowance, medical allowance, etc, etc. And the day his family said ‘yes’, Radha’s mother got all excited, she had won the dream boy for her daughter, her friends looked at her with envy. She reminded Radha all the time that how lucky she was to get a husband like him, engineer and into government service. One of those days, fed up of repeatedly hearing this sermon, Radha snapped, “Amma, what’s it about him being an engineer and me being lucky. He is lucky too, after all, I am a post graduate.” Her mother stared at her for a while, clearly conveying the message, “Alright, now keep quiet”. Radha made a face at her and her mother smiled.
After marriage she shifted to their two bedroom quarters with her husband. The government colony was a tranquil place, far from the maddening crowds of Chennai. There were trees everywhere, small gardens to sit around, playgrounds, grocery shops, hospital, and school, everything inside a beautiful campus.
The only issue was, she couldn’t work. She got everything she needed in the colony, but certain things like cinemas, shopping malls and most importantly, offices were far away from where she lived. So five years and two kids down the line, after lot of consideration and deliberation, Radha decided to be at home and take care of the kids.
She made good use of her post graduation at home though. She won all arguments with her husband with her winning statement, “Don’t tell me what to do, I am a post graduate.” To which he lovingly said “This is the hundredth time you are telling me, now please excuse me and go out and let the world know.” She pulled a face and he smiled.
Her husband’s younger brother got married; the girl was beautiful, glamorous and rich. She had brought jewellery, cash and even a car along with her. Radha’s mother-in-law sighed and in front of a large audience she announced, “At least my second son married rich.” Back home, fuming with rage, Radha shouted at her husband, “Your mother has to insult me at every small chance she gets. That girl is only SSC, but no, that doesn’t matter. All that your mother can see is her looks and her wealth. For God’s sake, I am a post graduate.” With a tired smile on his face, her husband said, “You have said this to me a thousand times, please tell this to my mother and let me go.” Radha pulled a face and he smiled, as usual.
But the most daunting and annoying task for Radha was to meet other mothers her age at music classes, at parent teacher meetings or at annual day functions. There were monotonous discussions about how someone’s kid did not top, because the other’s kid scored one mark more. How teachers were partial and how they did not teach anything. Amidst all this conversation, some lady even advised Radha to take more interest in her children’s’ studies and activities so that they too could top, like the lady’s son.
Bored and irritated, Radha came back and grumbled, “I don’t understand these ladies, half witted and uneducated, how can they fight with teachers for marks. These ladies don’t even know what it’s like to study for B.Tech or MBBS, but all of them want the children to be doctors or engineers. And they question my credibility, after all, I am a post graduate.” Still looking at the television, her husband said, “Since the past fifteen years, you have said this to me like a million times. At least now you leave me alone and go tell them.”
Radha knew what he was saying was true to a certain extent, but she just didn’t find the need to boast about her qualification to the most insignificant people she came across. Her father, a well educated and well settled person, had always maintained that, “Vidya Dhanam Sarva Dhanat Pradhanam.”(Amongst all the riches and virtues of life, education is the supreme). He believed that people with good education and good principles never needed to show off, their behaviour and good conduct would do all the talking. For Radha, the only people who mattered were her parents, siblings, husband and children and they all loved respected her, she didn’t need anyone else’s approval.
And her children were not machines who had to excel everywhere. She knew academics were important and she helped them whenever they asked, but she didn’t believe in forcing her dreams and expectations down their throats.
Time flew by, and her son registered for Ph.D in Microbiology at Delhi University. Her daughter always showed a keen interest in literature and she enrolled for Masters in literature at Chennai. Radha and her husband were proud of their children, both of them were doing well, were good human beings and were close to their parents. Radha felt truly blessed, after all, both of them were post graduates.
Her son got married and the girl was a professor and a doctorate too, just like her son. After marriage, both of them were to stay in Delhi and Radha was happy about it. It was good that they were able to start their married life all by themselves. As long as she could continue living with her husband, she didn’t want to barge into their privacy and become the interfering monster-in-law. The girl was good too, humble and polite, but Radha couldn’t say the same about her mother. The lady was loud, extremely talkative, overly made up for any occasion and boasted about her wealth and property all the time.
Even Radha’s husband could not help but notice, and one day he remarked, “I hope our daughter-in-law doesn’t turn out like her mother. That lady gets on my nerves.” Radha calmly replied, “That lady hasn’t even gone to college, how can she be classy like me, after all, I am a...” He stopped her mid way, folded his hands and said, “Please don’t say this to me anymore, go tell her.” Radha pulled a face and he smiled mischievously.
And then one day, just like that, she fainted. She was lucky that it was Sunday and her husband was around, or nobody would have even known. At the casualty, the doctors checked her Blood Pressure and after two days of observation and many tests and scans, she was diagnosed with a slight heart condition. The doctors in Kalpakam checked her records and realized that she had been suffering from high BP for quite some time now.
But Radha had never been very careful about her health. Her BP would shoot up at times, she would feel giddy, and rush to the hospital and take her medicines for a month or so. But at other times, she totally avoided going to the doctor. Her husband and kids had regularly reminded her to get her BP checked but she feared that the doctors would keep her under observation, prescribe a hundred medicines or worse still, make her wear those dirty hospital clothes. Radha had somehow brushed it off for too long but now they had referred her to a doctor in Chennai and had even talked about a probable surgery.
They reached Chennai and stayed with their daughter. The night before visiting the hospital, her husband, for the first time in his life lashed out at her. “All your life you served me, looked after the kids, did whatever you could do to keep everybody happy. You should have taken some care of your own health. With regular checkups, you could have got better with a lighter dose of medicines, but now imagine how serious it has become. And the kids are blaming me for being careless about you. Why did you have to be so scared of a doctor? Was he going to eat you up?”
She looked at him, taken aback, he had never scolded her for anything. But it was true, at times she had been a bit too shy and timid. What was there to be so nervous about going to a doctor? Or travelling alone by air? Or attending his boss’s farewell party? All her life she had taken pride in being a post graduate and she had not even been able to control her maid servant. The only person over whom she had some command was her husband and today he had shouted at her too. She sighed, it was too late to change anyway.
The next morning, they waited outside the doctor’s OPD. When her turn came, her husband said, “I will not go inside with you, I cannot listen to his speech about my carelessness all over again.”