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An yesteryear tale: so far yet so near they lived their lives

Mrs. Visalakshi was around 65 and her husband Mr.Jayarama Iyer was 72. They stayed with their only daughter Mrs. Janaki and her seven children. One of the grandchildren, Bala, was in my class. What puzzled me about Bala’s grandparents was they never spoke to each other. Whenever they had anything to tell each other they did so via the grandchildren.

This bothered me. I saw quarrels between my parents. My grandparents too quarrelled often. They would remain aloof from each other for some time and eventually rejoin. What might have happened between Mrs. Visalakshi and Mr. Jayarama Iyer to keep them apart, poles apart, this long?

One day I asked my mother about it. First she told me, “You are too small a boy to poke your nose into elderly people’s lives. Confine yourself to matters suitable for your age.” But after a while she thawed and told me what she knew about Bala’s grandparents. This is their story.

Visalakshi and Jayarama Iyer were married when they were both in their early twenties. Both belonged to orthodox families. Things went on nicely for the couple till Visalakshi, their only daughter, was three. At that point of their life something happened, and Jayarama Iyer and Visalakshi stopped speaking to each other.

But as would have happened these days, Jayarama Iyer and Visalakshi did not think of a legal separation or a divorce. They continued to live under one roof. He took very good care of his daughter, who he was very fond of. The communication between the couple was through their tiny daughter. “Tell your mother I will not be home before 10,” Jayarama Iyer would tell his daughter. “Ask him to bring Oval [tine] and sugar when he returns from college,” Visalakshi would reply. The family bus cruised along the life-road like this, the driver Jayarama Iyer and the conductor Visalakshi communicating through their only passenger, daughter Janaki.

Janaki grew up. She went to school, came of age and the time came for her to be married. Even during the ceremony of the marriage of their only daughter they did not speak to each other. Five grandsons and three granddaughters were born and a number of ceremonies were observed in connection with these grandchildren. Jayarama Iyer and Visalakshi stuck to their vow of not speaking to each other.

A number of relatives and friends over time tried to break the ice between these couples, but in vain. On one occasion my mother asked Mrs. Janaki how she could bear to see her parents remaining without speaking to each other adamantly for years and years. “They are like this since I was a child. I tried my best to unravel the mystery but in vain. I hated to be the lone child of my parents. I longed to have a brother or sister. But all my efforts to bring about reconciliation between them failed,” replied Mrs. Janaki.

I think it was in 1969 that Jayarama Iyer got very ill. He refused to take food, and drank only water for days. A staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu, he kept chanting the Vishnu Sahasranamam. But Visalakshi was emotion-less.

Jayarama Iyer died in the early hours of an Ekadasi day, as he had desired all his life. Visalakshi died ten years later. During the years she outlived her husband, she was pressed a number of times to reveal the reason behind their tiff. She refused to divulge the 60-year secret.

These days how couples quarrel and go in for separation without thinking about the price their children have to pay for the extreme steps taken by their parents. Thousands of children are torn between estranged parents. When viewed against what is happening these days, Visalakshi and Jayarama Iyer were angels.

They had some very serious and irreconcilable difference between them but still chose to live together, that too without talking to each other for 45 years for the sake of their daughter.

So many interesting things go unnoticed in this world just because they take place in the life of ordinary people.

mr.m.r.anand@gmail.com


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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 1:16:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/an-yesteryear-tale-so-far-yet-so-near-they-lived-their-lives/article26757915.ece

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