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Raju Ganapathy

Drama Romance


Raju Ganapathy

Drama Romance

Asai Mugam (Loved Face)

Asai Mugam (Loved Face)

9 mins 257 9 mins 257

In the twilight years when the memory is fading like a waning moon how does one do justice to a story of love that started what seems ages ago. I am Murugan some seventy plus sharing this tale. Obviously, I am not writing my autobiography. I don't keep a diary and there will be gaps in the narration. As a reader bear with me. If you have an old man in the family with fading memories like mine, probably you would understand and empathize with me.

The story begins in Chennai in a very conservative locality called Mylapore, a historically rich place. I leave it to you to google and find out about the rich history. For a typical middle-class household like mine it had everything. Two temples to boast of. A long beach at a walking distance of 20 minutes. A bus stop at a less than 5-minute walk. A vegetable market at a distance of 3-minutes. I must have been about 16. My normal life consisted of school, couple hours of cricket in the evenings, some bit of study between six and eight in the evening, dinner and sleep. Sometimes an occasional book to sleep with.

I heard my mom discussing with the maid that one new family has shifted to the next-door house. My mom being of friendly nature had a few friends in the neighbourhood. It was an ordinary day and I was back home after play and began to look at school notes after six in the evening as was my routine. It was unusually quiet and a song came floating by, 'Asai mugam marandhu poche' (I have forgotten the face of my lover) composed by my favourite poet Bharathi. My attention got hooked on to the song; the melody of it; the beauty of the verses, the singer's voice (female). Someone was practising that song and she kept repeating it. I thought it must be some girl in the family that moved in recently. Later my mother confirmed it and she said Valli the teen ager is practising music. It was the first time in my life I dreamt of a girl and it was Valli who kept floating in my dreams.

Next day in school I went to the library and learn the song by heart. I hummed the song along with Valli from then onwards in the evening. I was wanting to see her but my shyness prevented from asking too much about her with my mom. It was during Navrathri a month later an opportunity came. My mother invited Valli and her mom for a visit home as is the tradition during Navrathri. Typically, she would make a sweet and a sundal (lentil steamed and seasoned) and served in a banana leaf cup. I was in my room at six sharp waiting to hear the cuckoo call. I was pleasantly surprised when the song came from my house itself. I rushed out and almost stumbled in the puja room. That is when I saw Valli and she me. My mom introduced me to Valli and her mom. I told her hesitatingly that I was captivated by that song and added I am a Bharathi fan. She just said "me too" in a demure voice.

Since then, my thoughts were always of Valli. Come summer I did reasonably well in the board exam and to everyone's surprise I got in to the college of engineering at Kharagpur. Valli and I have passed by each other at times exchanging nothing but a smile. Neither she nor I could muster any courage to say anything to each other. I didn't know if she ever thought of me the way I used to think of her.

It was once again during the Navathri vacation that I met Valli in my house. The occasion being the same as was during my first meeting with her. She looked even more beautiful and I found that I could not take my eyes off her. I mustered enough courage to tell her that I always keep think of her and her mesmerizing song. She said she thinks of me when she sings that song. It was as if snow stuck me in the heart.

When I returned after completing my degree in the summer when I turned twenty-one, I got a shock of my life when my mom told me that Valli just got married off a month ago at a ripe age of eighteen. In the conservative Chennai this was not an unusual event. My heart was broken. I remember crying for a few days. My mom possibly understood my sorrow and said it was all in the fate as a matter of consolation. A few days later I mustered enough courage to walk in next door and ask for Valli's new address. I told Mami (aunty) I wanted to congratulate her and give her a wedding gift. I deliberately went to Valli's house in the morning. I didn't want to meet her husband for whom I already developed a hate. Her mother-in-law was there. I disarmed her with some charming conversations persuading her to believe that Valli was my sister like and I wanted to give her a wedding gift.

As soon as she left us alone, I asked Valli how could she agree. She said softly and as a matter of fact what else could she do? I then asked for a single photo of hers to keep as a momento and I returned home with it. As I parted from her, I asked then what about the "asai mugam?" she said she would never sing that song anymore as her ' asai mugam' was mine and would remain that way deep in her heart. I thought that was the end of our love story. But that was not the case to be.

I moved out of Chennai and worked all over India. I kept asking my mom the well being of Valli. I didn't know how the three years had passed by then. Valli did not have any issues and she was blamed by her in-laws for remaining barren. My mom told me Valli was under pressure. Typically, the conservative society would put the blame on the women. Nobody would question if man was capable of seeding a child. Soon I heard that there was talk of her husband going for a second marriage. I seethed with rage. It was then I decided to make a visit to Chennai and meet Valli. I sent Valli a message through my mom to visit her home. I told my mom that I wanted to marry Vallli and would ask her to file a divorce. My mom though shocked at my intention understood I meant well. I said Valli was old enough to decide for herself should in case her parents are against my proposal.

When Valli came to her home my mom and I visited her parents and conveyed our proposal. Of course, the usual arguments were put forward by her parents. What will the society say? And so on. I asked Valli her willingness. She agreed to my proposal. I asked her parents if they can speak from the depth of their heart and tell me if they still refuse. I would love Valli and keep her happy. They could not refuse my proposal. I would take care of all the proceedings.

Of course, it took a year or so for the divorce (on account of in-law cruelty) proceedings to get completed. The case made into media and became quite sensational. A maverick director made a decent film on our story too and became a hot topic in the journals and newspapers. Of course, the social media was absent then. But even then, some sections of the society praised us while others were critical of us.

Valli and I got married soon after that and moved out of Chennai to avoid the glare of the society. I arranged for my mom to come and live with me and arranged for a separate house for my in-laws too. We could resume normal life from then onwards.

Of course, Valli could not bear a child. But that didn't matter. My mom and her parents became our children in their old age. She continued to sing "asai mugam marandu pochche" in her sweetest voice which made my heart melt.

Rest of our life went off typically like that of a middle-class Indian family. My mom died and then her parents too. In the twilight of our life, we support each other. Now-a-days she is not able to sing my favourite song as she has some breathing problems. So, what, we hear the song rendered by others in the TV or in the YouTube and relive our romance.

Like in the mythology Murugan and Valli were made of each other so, did we! We hope we will depart together. That is my last wish.

Valli's version

The boy came stumbling into the room at my neighbourhood mami's house when I began singing my favourite song "asai mugam marandhy pochche." When I looked at him, he stumbled in to my heart too. His face became my 'asai mugam.' But ours was a conservative society and there was no way to express one's feelings. There was just an under current of feelings unexpressed by both of us. My heart broke when my day announced that a boy was coming to see me for marriage. Once again what I wanted never mattered. Not that my parents didn't love me. This was how the life for a girl was set. Marriage, then motherhood, taking care of the in-laws and death.

When Murugan came and saw me soon after my marriage I was pleased he still remembered me and wanted me. I broke down after he left. When I could not bear any children, my life became hell. My in-laws started harassing me and my husband never took my side and spoke against his parents. I was as good as dead and went about my life. Murugan's mother once in a while used to visit me and tell me that Murugan always enquired about me and that gave me some short-lived joy.

It was during one such visit mami asked me to visit my home as Murugan wanted to meet me. When Murugan and her mom made the proposal for marriage once divorce gets done, I could not believe myself. Finally, I thought god was answering my prayers. Even then I could not believe that this was possible in this society. But Murugan was firm and like the Tamil god he was full of wisdom as well. He gave all of us support in this adventurous step. We faced a lot of criticism. But some people also supported us. Many women had experienced such harassment like me and they were hoping that my case would open a new way of life for women as such.

Eventually Murugan's perseverance and the advocate's clever argument and the judge's progressive mindedness saw us win the divorce. When I married Murugan it was life anew for me I was just twenty-two. The horrid chapter of the previous 3-4 years I could overcome with the love and support from Murugan, her mom and my parents. I was back to singing my favourite song "Asai mugam marandhu pochche." The song that brought us together. The song gave back our life once again.

These days I am unable to sing the song due to my breathlessness. But we listen to the song rendered by others and relive our romance. My last wish is that we depart together. Hope the Lord Murugan will grant us that boon.

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