Divya inquired from the receptionist about the X-ray report that she was supposed to get
that day and also mentioned her appointment with Dr K.C. Balan MD, who also happened to
be a family friend. The receptionist requested her to wait after sending one of the assistants
to the medical superintendent’s room to get the attested report.
A small introduction about Divya could probably make you feel more comfortable. Divya
was in her sophomore year, studying psychology at the University of Madras. She was
rather tall for a girl, had a slim figure and a slender waistline that most girls would envy.
With alluring eyes, a Roman nose and fleshy cheeks, she was very attractive. She didn’t
need any ornaments; she wore those inimitable expressions!
She was searching for a suitable chair—rather, an appropriate position to sit—when she
saw this lovely couple. In particular, she noticed the handsome husband seated in front of
her. Divya’s parents had been looking for the right guy for her; and ever since the search for
her prince had started, she’d started dreaming of her ideal man. This guy who was sitting
there matched almost all the parameters she’d set. He was tall, fair and well built with a
minimal frame. And with a clean-shaven face, sharp nose and penetrating eyes, he was one
of the most handsome guys she’d ever seen. She immediately felt jealous of the girl seated
next to him, his wife. The girl looked like a model, the kind you can only see in
advertisements and some expensive magazines. If you had taken an international flight,
maybe, you could have seen some one like that. They were the kind of couple people call
‘made for each other’.
Since there were a couple of chairs right behind them, Divya thought settling in there
wouldn’t be that bad an idea. She went unnoticed—not deliberately, though—and sat in the
chair right behind the charming couple. However, the pair didn’t notice her arrival and
continued to chat loudly enough to be audible to the person seated behind.
‘Why should you not reconsider this?’ pleaded the girl with her husband.
‘There’s nothing to reconsider here, Maya. You know that my salary has been cut by
almost 50 per cent and I don’t feel safe at all. This is an emergency measure that is very
much required!’ He sounded very desperate.
‘But, Kabir, even with the salary you earn now, we can raise our child. It’s enough. It’s
just our mindset. Don’t you think?’
‘What’s enough!’ He didn’t allow her to complete the sentence. ‘Look. It isn’t enough. I
want my son to grow in the best possible environment. I want him to eat the best food. I
want him to attend the best school. I want him to live in one of the costliest apartments and I
want him to wear clothes that not many are blessed to even think of. This is how I want my
son to grow up. I don’t want him to grow up seeing his father suffering from the financial
crisis. So it’s better you have an abortion now. I am sure things will get better in a year or
two; we can have a child then.’
Divya felt that though his manner was gentle, as if one hand was cradling the new baby,
the actual content was harsh, like using the other hand to choke the same baby to death.
Maya continued crying. It was a rather ‘cultured crying’, to which people like Maya are
conditioned inherently. It’s impossible for anyone to notice unless one sits at a close
proximity like where Divya was seated.
‘I feel really insecure. This is our first child. Who knows? This abortion could take my
life. I am afraid!’ She said. Her voice trembled, echoing the emotional turmoil she was
‘This is just a minor operation. There’s nothing to worry about, sweetheart. I have spoken
to the doctor.’ His efforts at consolation, for no reason in particular, reminded Divya of the
plastic flowers used for decorating a room—all looks and no fragrance.
‘You dirty liar!’ hissed Maya. ‘Don’t lie! I spoke to the doctor myself. She said there’s a
huge risk involved in this, now that I am psychologically not ready for this and all.
Generally, doctors don’t talk like this to expectant mothers. This is our first child. How can
you be so monstrous?’ Words didn’t come out of her as comfortably as she wanted it to. She
was on the verge of losing all the culture to which she had been institutionalized since her
‘Look,’ began Kabir. ‘On this issue, we’ve had long discussions before and the
conclusion is what has made us sit here. If you are still adamant, you can probably go ahead
and have this child. But prepare yourself to live without me. Period.’ Saying this, he turned
his face away from her, sealing the argument. It was then that he noticed a stranger sitting
behind him. His expression changed completely in a way that Divya was unable to
comprehend. The same face that looked so handsome until few minutes back now looked so
ugly that she felt bad for having seen that face in her lifetime.
Suddenly there boomed a voice that almost shook the entire block: ‘You mindless idiot!
How many times do you want me to repeat this?’
It was spoken in strongly accented colloquial Tamil which people like Divya don’t get to
listen to pretty often. It came from a guy who was sitting right at the front, while Divya was
sitting behind the couple who were some good ten to fifteen seats away from him. Almost
all the seats were vacant as it wasn’t a weekend or a peak time in the hospital—or probably
people were too healthy.
‘How many times do you want me to say this!’ he continued yelling. Everybody near the
reception and also this young couple looked at this shouting man who seemed completely
oblivious of his surroundings. The person at the receiving end was his wife. She was a lean
woman with a swollen face. She was wearing a wrinkled sari. A yellow thread was around
her neck and her face was too swollen to describe the attributes.
Her husband, the one who was shouting, was tall, massively built, with red eyes and a
large moustache that occupied almost all of his face. He had a daunting stature. He was
wearing traditional village attire, white shirt and a white dhoti—not all that white though.
He was holding some old leather bag with probably a bottle in it.
He possessed exactly the features that Divya hated in any guy. ‘All men are barbarians,’
thought Divya to herself. ‘Some of them conceal their brutality very graciously, like the one
in front of me, while the others like this villager are openly barbaric.’ She thought that the
word ‘barbarian’ described that man precisely.
She wanted to know the story behind this verbal lynching. ‘Eavesdropping isn’t ethical,’
she told herself. But curiosity got the better of her and she shifted herself slowly and
discreetly till she was sitting right behind this village couple. The gap between two rows
was large enough to go unnoticed and small enough to make the conversation audible in the
rear. This helped Divya’s cause.
‘Drink this. You haven’t eaten anything since today morning!’ he said, offering his wife
the bottle he was holding. Divya assumed it probably had sweet lime juice.
The woman continued crying. Divya wasn’t sure if she wasn’t in the mood to accept the
bottle or if she was too weak to! The woman had been crying and looked really tired. Divya
wouldn’t have been surprised if she had fallen dead ten minutes from then.
‘Why are you crying? Nothing has happened,’ the villager tried to console her. His
pleading was so incongruous to his looks.
‘I’ve given birth to a dead baby boy and doctors have told me I can’t conceive again.
Your parents are going to make you divorce me and you will get married to another woman,’
she said, weeping uncontrollably. ‘I am probably a sinner, the biggest sinner ever in our
village!’she shouted and continued, ‘I shall not be spared. Punish me, my God. Take me. It’s
better that I die rather than giving difficulty to my husband and his family.’
Her tears were genuine. Not a single iota of any of it sounded dramatic. Divya could
empathize with her. She had been to a village to meet her grandparents and she knew what it
was to lose a first child there—when a woman was declared sterile, she naturally became
untouchable. So all the emotions that this female was displaying—they could be insane and
even seem specious when analysed logically—made all the sense in the world to Divya
who realized it was more than just logic. Now this woman would probably be thrown out of
the family by her husband and she would have to lead the rest of her life as a destitute. How
But her husband held her hands, giving her warmth in the process, and said, ‘Look! I am
not going to marry anybody. I swear. Now, trust your husband! Stop crying. I can’t be
disloyal to you.’ He then patted her hair and called somebody, probably his wife’s sister,
and asked both of them to wait at the bus stand as he had some formalities to complete.
‘Hold her tight, lest she should fall,’ he loudly instructed his wife’s sister and then
disappeared from Divya’s sight.
Divya waited for some time. After a few minutes, the receptionist called her, handed her
the X-ray reports and asked her to meet her family doctor, who was waiting for her on the
As Divya entered the doctor’s room, she saw one huge figure leaving the room and she
craned her neck and saw it was the same village guy whom she’d seen below.
‘Hello, Uncle! How are you doing?’ Divya asked Dr K.C. Balan, who was their family
doctor and, incidentally, the chief medical superintendent of the Nila Hospitals.
‘Hello, Divya! I am doing great. How do you do? How’s your father? Hasn’t he come out
of hypochondriasis yet?’ he asked jovially.
‘He is fine, Uncle. As usual complaining about those silly pains here and there. You
‘I saw the X-ray report and he is completely all right. Just ask him to do his regular
exercise and stuff. That would suffice.’
‘Uncle, it could sound intrusive. But, can you tell me something about this guy who just
left your office? I am interested in knowing about him.’
‘That’s a very sad story, Divya. I am not supposed to share my patients’stories with
anybody. However, this one is extraordinary; I want you to hear it. I hope you don’t share it
with anybody else. This guy’s name is Ilamcheliyan and he is from this remote village from
the south. His family is a prestigious family in his village and they are fondly called the
‘Velakkarapadayiner’—that roughly translates as ‘guardians of the village’. His family has
been considered as the defenders of the village for generations and the first male child in
each generation takes the mantle of defending the village from his father. Now, after
Ilamcheliyan, his son is supposed to become the Knight of the Village, with the mantle
passing from Ilamcheliyan to his son.
‘Ilamcheliyan’s wife had a small accident and hence there was an unexpected
complication in the delivery and the baby was stillborn. Because of this accident she’s lost
her ability to conceive again. She’s become infertile. Now, given this scenario, you can
easily expect the next few scenes. The powerful family of Ilamcheliyan and the whole
village will force him to ditch his wife and get remarried to some other girl. It doesn’t
matter how much Ilamcheliyan resists or how much he doesn’t want this to happen; he will
be forced to do it. Imagine, when thousands of people are pushing you in a certain direction
forcefully, is it possible to run in the opposite direction? You can try; but what will happen?
You will have to eventually give in. I mean, it will not be practically possible for
Ilamcheliyan to say no to them forever. They are really influential and Ilamcheliyan will be
overwhelmed at some point of time for sure. But, this is where you’ve got to give it to this
guy. A salute. An incredible gesture!’
Dr Balan paused and took off his glasses.
‘What is he going to do?’ asked a puzzled Divya.
‘Vasectomy,’ he said and stopped abruptly.
‘What! Good God, is he crazy!’
‘He’s asked me to keep this a secret. He’s fixed the appointment with our surgeon for
today evening itself. If any of his people comes to know of this, all hell will break loose and
they will go to any extent to stop this. I know his family. I’ve been following them for quite
some time. They have a different set of values altogether. Ilamcheliyan’s father himself had
three wives and innumerable concubines, and he used up almost all the assets in the
process. Their culture and their way of living could look odd and probably even nasty to
some of us. But that’s how life is defined there for them, and that’s how they have been
living all along. And to see an absolutely truly civilized man like this from that kind of place
Divya was so taken aback that she didn’t have anything further to say on that topic. She
was speechless, to say the least. They had their normal chat for some time and Divya later
left the hospital.
While she was waiting at the bus stop to catch an auto, she could hear a familiar voice
behind her. Turning back, she saw it was the man with the big moustache, Ilamcheliyan. His
stature intimidated her, as usual.
‘We have to go to Saidapet. Can you tell me the bus number?’ he asked Divya politely.
Then pointing at a bus, he inquired if that will take him there.
‘Yes, it will! Kindly hurry up!’ Divya said urgently. She saw him board the bus with his
wife and her sister. Ilamcheliyan was holding his wife’s hand carefully and guiding her
She looked at Ilamcheliyan’s face for probably the last time ever. She couldn’t remember
seeing somebody more handsome than that!
Divya inquired from the receptionist about the X-ray report that she was supposed to get