I was always called a brave person in the college and in the village,but I realised I was no match against love.Thumping heart,weak knees and perhaps trembling too..If this was my state what would be hers.The silence was broken by her,she had passed the exams.Stretched her hands and in that was a colourful Mala of beads.Thanks giving were written all over it.Locked to her mesmerising eyes and said this was not neccessary
Basanthi :Shami (sami,a repectful word ,was pronounced by her that way )Enakku padippu solli tharuveengala (will you teach me )I want to pass SSLC.
Me :Nichhayamaga (surely)..But in the heart of hearts,I didnt know how to go about it
One or two more meetings,we decided ,apart from the night school classes we would spend the saturday and sunday for studies.The location ,of course had to be a far off place.We decided on the PICHAVARAM ,one of the most beautiful mangrove spots in the country,near Portonovo.One could simply get lost in those places,an ideal place to spend time together,of course on studies.
One major worry of mine got cleared with The zamindar of Namalaipatti deciding to marry off his daughter Thenmozhi elsewhere, since they were in a hurry..My sisters marriage got cleared and now I was free to go on with my plans.
Weekends were obviously awaited by me and it was the same for Basanthi too..a bond developing so fast we started discussing,life after college.There was a pressure on her to get married to a person from her community from Viluppuram a place not far away. So Time and Social pressure were the things weighing very heavily on us.We decided that I have to leave for USA immediately after results and then...A million questions..how and when to get married?Before or after?Will her family wait eternally for her to decide?already pressure on her since she has become educated.Exams were closing in on us and so was the decisive phase..Somewhere along the line we realised we hadnt even talked of marriage but had taken it for granted , as the inevitable.She was astounding with her studies.Her concentration level was so high that there used to be times when I yearned for her loving glances !I knew she was destained for something big.
Both of us completed our exams and were confident of our success.She had picked up English too.I got admission in one of the best University , and that meant just a few days left for the departure..It dawned on us that it would be impossible for her to get passport etc all by herself,besides the visa was a tough issue.It meant I had to confess the developments to someone who could keep it confidential and at the same time resourceful. I called on my best friend in madras,who was taken aback since he knew my family well.But his acceptance to help was immediate.We decided the best solution was to get married immediately.How ? My friend pulled in all his resources and the date in registrars office fixed .All along Basanthi was a silent spectator to the developments and silence was her way of conveying her acceptance.That was my Basanthi.For marriage she wanted me to buy her a colurful silk dress in her typical tradition,which I did.It was a sort of skirt and blouse.She looked terrific at the registrars office..All along we had not thought about the repurcursions.
I was nervous,as my departure date was nearing.Surprisingly she was confidence personified .Amazing girl.I knew my friend in Madras, was the only person through whom I could keep the communication channel on and also heavily depended on him for visa and other formalities.
My departure,settling down there etc etc all went off in a jiffy. Suddenly ,I realised,at least I had made out a genuine reason for going overseas,How would she manage.My God,I had never thought of it.Hows my Basanthi going to face the situation and the world.What sort of human being I was?always thinking of me and my family ?I wrote a long letter to Basanthi and apologised to her..She replied calmly that she had already opened out to her parents,who were shocked.But knowing her firmness on issues,including education,they accepted it.But they didnt know how to handle the situation, if she left their camp..
My friend in Madras was one hell of a guy running from pillar to post in getting things organised,visa papers ,neccessary documents,airline tickets etc and the sweetest news was she got the visa (in my hurry I forgot to ask her what dress she wore for the interview,though it made no difference) ..and her departure to the land of opportunities was fixed for August1975.I thanked my friend ,in Madras ,profusely for all the coordination ,after he put her on flight.I donno how I would have handled the situation without his help..
Basanthi landed and then on life for us had turned more eventful.
Somewhere,in late seventies I opened out to my parents about the developments and disappointment was too much for them to digest not because of my decision but more because they didnt know how to handle the social pressures which would surface once my decision was made public.They would stand isolated.My sister managed the situation so well that my admiration for her went up multifold.She had apparently convinced them not to react.She perhaps realised that our society will accept people once they were elevated in social standings.Malarkodi, very effectively sponged off the tensions of my parents in her own way and I felt her husband Avudayappan played a significant role too..Thanks to them..
The only way Basanthis family was kept informed of our well being was thru photographs and words of solace thru my friend.Understand they remained isolated in their tribe.Surely Basanthi must have felt deeply hurt but never once she showed it.
In a short time,I became the head of a major research institute and Basanthi was pursuing her studies ,relentlessly..She completed her Doctoral on topic close to her heart.Nomads and their influence on the society..Her writings hugely applauded,she became an invited speaker to many Universities.An NGO started by her,LINK UP,Networked the Nomads of various countries and made them mainstream contributers of respective societies.Books written by her were receiving accolades..
Our only child SNEHA(friendship)was growing up giving us the much needed diversion.
Then one day it occured to me when Basanthi was away globe trotting;That thought crossed my mind ..Enough was enough...With both of us busy in our own work,Sneha was not getting the attention she deserved.Made up my mind to talk to Basanthi upon her return.
Me :Basanthi,The pressure of our work is telling on Sneha
Basanthi :Amaam Shami(Yes)I do realise that
Me :I feel,one of us have to take care and that is going to me.Will it be ok?
Basanthi was adament in not accepting that decision.Having never said no to any of her demands,it was very tough for me stand firm.But finally I convinced her that her contribution was far more larger since it addressed people directly.
As years rolled by and as Sneha went away to hostel,I started devoting more time to LINK UP,the NGO run by Basanthi.
By then we visited, Madras which by then had become Chennai.The offial reception by the Government and meeting with the CM was higly publicised in the media.Basanthi was literally a celebrity and with that the social acceptability..Both our parents were looked upon in awe.Yes,over the years both the families had become close to us and no more heart burns..
And then one day it was announced that Basanthi was being awarded the famous BONEL prize for her contribution to the society.As usual I was in all excitement.Basanthi was her cool composed self,and reacted saying it was possible only because of me.I was dumbstruck.
The day of award giving was declared as 16 th of April,2008.Telephone calls from world over including from those who had predicted our marriage would fail,poured in.
On 10th April when we were to leave for Europe,had a silent prayer in our pooja room.As we sat across the dining table,and discussed many things.Finally when we came to the nitty grittys, I asked her what she proposed to wear,perhaps a very silly question.A smile from her and she walked across to her cupboard and brought out the dress. It was the same one which I had bought her decades back for marriage,a typical colurful gypsy dress,but made of silk.Both of us felt so excited and romantic too,despite the years.Rest of the stuff could be brought from India.
On my part I had preserved the beads given by her to me and Basanthi was more than happy to sport it on herself.
On that day,when Basanthi was to be given the award,we were allotted the front row.I was flanked by my parents on one side and Basanthis parents on the other.My father gave me a gentle squeeze on my shoulder perhaps meaning how much he respected my decision.Two persons I would have loved to be around,Malarkodi (my Sis ) and CU(my friend from Madras)couldnt make it.
As they announced..We invite Dr.Basanthi Selvaraju, who calls herself ,very rightly,as the Global Citizen to receiv.........
Tall,ever graceful,in the traditional dress as Basanthi walked up to receive the award ,she gave me that glance through the Orakann(corner of the eyes)which transported me back in time by decades....Oh My Basanthi !!I am so lucky.....
This is a reproduction as heard from my friend Selvaraju !!
To know more about NariKoravas and Gypsies and the exotic Pichavaram, One could browse following..of course there are many more sites !!
About Nomads and NariKoravas