Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Second Place

I knew something was wrong as I was parking my car in front of Selvam’s house. I ran up the steps to see Sivakami lying down by the entrance door , her head on the Vasalpadi. I was shocked and felt a chillness creeping within me and clutching at my heart. I knelt beside her and lifted her head to feel her pulse and felt none. All I could feel was the rapid thumping of my heart and my heart go numb with sadness.
I slowly got up, clutched the chair in the Thinnai and sat down. I opened my cell phone and started making calls. Once I had called the most important people who I needed starting with my family doctor, I got up again and went and sat beside Sivakami and lifted her head and laid it on my lap.
I could then only lean back on the threshold of the door, grief overwhelming me in its strides to crush my heart.
I closed my eyes and thought of my friend Selvam, Sivakami’s late husband.
Selvam and I had started nursery school together. In the small town where we lived, we soon became thick friends and remained so till the day he left me.
Selvam got married before me and I welcomed his wife Sivakami as my sister and called her Mannee. She in turn called me Anna and would not even buy a saree without my approval.
After I married , we were fortunate to continue our friendship to involve both families and the coming of children as well. Once when we had gone on a picnic , the topic had turned towards the bereavement of a family member and the plight of the widow and children left behind.
I still remember Sivakami’s eyes and the manner in which she spoke her thoughts that day. “I will go first “ she said , “And I have no doubt about it”. 
Selvam could not resist asking “And how do you know for sure?”.
“look Anna your friend is teasing me”, she complained pulling me into their conversation. I had to always side with my adopted sister and so I said “Selvam, let her win wont you?”. By this time the children had heard the conversation getting louder and were curious to know what transpired.
Not wanting the children to know the topic of discussion, I informed the children “ We were talking about who would win first place if we had a running race “. So every time we four adults wanted to revisit the conversation , Sivakami would say “I will win first place’. For some reason it was very important for her to win first place. It was totally contradictory to her nature.
She was dependent on everything on Selvam. Maybe that’s why she wanted to first to avoid the plight of being a widow.
God had other plans. Selvam passed away on my shoulder. I had visited them one evening and Selvam asked Sivakami to get me some coffee. As soon as she went inside, Selvam turned to me and clutched his heart and said “I am feeling a lot uneasy here” and started to perspire and leaned heavily on my shoulder. It happened so quickly that I still cannot believe it. By the time Sivakami came back with coffee , everything was over. The coffee tumbler and Davara fell from her hands and she fell at my feet in shock. 
The one and only reason she got over her shock and started to live was because of her two girls. She was determined to get them married into good families. Not even sugar was bought by Sivakami without informing me first.
Her daughters married well but both had lots of problems in their marriages. The eldest one could not conceive and so had problems but Sivakami stayed very strong. With her strong mental and physical support , her daughter conceived through artificial means and then resumed a happy married life. Her second daughter had lots of problems from her inlaws. Sivakami did not give up. She worked tirelessly and got her daughter and son-in-law move out of the country to resume a happier married life.
Many times when Sivakami visited my home, she would share with my wife and I, how grateful she was for our support. She also told us that if she had gone first as planned Selvam could never had coped with his daughter’s problems. My wife and I totally agreed with her. It was very true. Selvam was a hot tempered person but very soft at heart. He was not mentally strong as Sivakami and I was amazed at my sister’s perseverance and tenacity to finish what she and her beloved husband started.
I knew in my heart that my sister made it to second place but I was glad she did not make it to first place.

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