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Amma!

Don’t Pardon Me
(Amma! Nanu Kshaminchoddu)

Original in Telugu by
C. Bhavani Devi

Translator GRK Murty


Setting the kitchen alright, Sunitha calls Mohan.

“Mohan! Won’t you please help me?”

Mohan can’t say no whenever Sunitha asks like that.

He might be a doctor, but isn’t he the husband for her!

Although it’s a week since they have changed the house, both being
duty-bound, could not set right the house. He connects the fridge to
power and puts on the switch.

Saying, “Sunitha, tomorrow I shall arrange for vegetables! It’s


enough, feeling hungry, please do serve dinner”, he washes his
hands.

In the meanwhile, the neighboring lady’s voice is again heard.

“Radha! Please set the dining table; shall have our dinner”, she tells
her daughter.

Sunitha has been listening to her voice for the last one week. The
clinking sounds of plates, spoons… might be having their dinner.
“Radha! Make the bed for father. Put drinking water near the bed. By
the by, don’t forget to give medicine”, listening to the voice of
neighboring lady, Sunitha and Mohan finish their dinner. Light is put
off in the neighboring house. All go to sleep.

As long as she is in the house, hearing the voice of the neighboring


lady has almost become part of the daily chores of Sunitha. The
maidservant tells that her name is Janakamma. Thought of going to
her once and introduce herself, but in the meanwhile, an urgent
phone call comes asking her to start immediately since her mother is
sick. Hurriedly, both apply for leave and rush to Nellore. Seeing her
mother, lying in the bed inflicted by a stroke, Sunitha cries. Mohan is
unable to console her. She stays back for ten days. After her
mother’s position improves a little, Sunitha starts back.

Holding Sunitha’s hand, her mother doesn’t let her go. Overawed by
fear, she implores Sunitha to stay back. Her eyes well up. But Sunitha
has no time to stay back with mother who brought her up thus far.

“No leave! Shall come back again”, thus consoling her mother, she
starts back. But her heart remains with her mother.
The routine again. In the world of working couple, there is no room
for even amma, what to talk about neighbors. After coming to the
new house, obviously, new surroundings, new contacts, isolated city
life.

That day, as Sunitha gets up from bed, she hears Janakamma’s voice.
Hearing her say, “Radha, give this, that”, she is reminded of her
mother.

“Radha! Asked you to fetch flowers for the prayer, have you? Ha,
keep them here. In the meanwhile, cut those vegetables”,
Janakamma’s tone resonates.

The whole day passes by very hectic… a colleague’s marriage. She


thinks of somehow calling on Janakamma in the evening. But, it takes
time for the bank’s balance sheet to get tallied. It is 8 in the night by
the time she gets back home. Having got delayed at the clinic, Mohan
comes home at 9 O’clock. Being tired, immediately after having
dinner, Sunitha goes to bed, pulling over the blanket.

Suddenly they wake up in the middle of the night, hearing someone


knocking on the door wildly. They open the door. There stood the
elderly neighbor. “Doctor! Please come immediately to our house,
Janaki has lost her consciousness”, he says anxiously.

Sunitha rushes to the neighboring house with Mohan. Mohan gives


an injection to her. “Nothing to worry, it’s common with high
temperature”, says Mohan while checking BP.

She is around sixty. Grey hair, on the broad forehead there is a red
dot, ordinary bangles on the hand, jari border sari… she is just like
her mother. Sunitha looks around the house—old furniture, old-style
photos, photos of children, latest two color photos of a couple
…perhaps, of their children.

“Radha!” Janakammagaru calls feebly.

Turning to him, Sunitha asks him, “Will you please call Radha?” His
eyes well up. Showing the girl doll placed by the side of TV, he wipes
his tears. She feels as though the doll is looking piercingly through
the depths of her heart. Turning her eyes from it, she looks at him
questioningly.
“Yes! Radha is our daughter. She loved a software engineer and
marrying him, she went to America. In her love for her daughter, not
being able to stay without her, Janakamma has become like this. In
her illusion that her daughter is around, she keeps calling Radha for
every trivial need. It’s pretty expensive to go to them. Nor does son-
in-law send Radha here. Both son and daughter-in-law are employed.
They cannot stay with us. Last time, before coming here, Radha
asked her, ‘Amma! What shall I get for you?’ Janaki had said, ‘Need a
doll of a girl like you.’ It’s the same doll”, finishes the old man.

For Sunitha, it’s not Radha that’s visible now but herself in that doll.
She gets up slowly and setting right the blanket on Janakamma,
walks out.

With a heavy heart, Sunitha soliloquizes: “Amma! Don’t pardon me.”


For the mother lying motionless in Nellore, it was like a tweak in her
womb.

*****

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