SHADOWS UNDER TREE
There was shadow in bureau drawers and closets and suitcases, and shadow under houses and trees and stones, and shadow at the back of people’s eyes and smiles, and shadow, miles and miles and miles of it, on the night side of the earth.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
I realized that my mobile is not switched off rather it was running out of power .I asked my fellow librarian to take care of the library so that I can go to my house and take lunch too and back in an hour. My sister in my home then – she posed a glimpse as if she was expecting me for long, ‘, kanagaraj was calling you, your phone was switched off … we tried many times’
Why… is there any problem in the case? Kanagaraj is my counsel that I have made a complaint in the Coimbatore court on my mother in law and wife as she has gone for home for about six months and not returning… In fact I am not asking for a divorce yet asking the family court to give my wife counseling and set right things… the first hearing was about to come but the date was not well known as my counsel was out of station. I took a feeble food and called on my lawyer and got the reply that the first hearing is today..11.30 am.
‘ Kanagaraj it is now 1.00 pm’
‘Yes I have asked a reschedule with the magistrate in the noon at 2.15 pm …Come soon’
Yes. I ll be there .. any one finding me running towards the wide threshold of the court would be thinking that I am acting in the final scenes of a Tamil film;; the threshold at the east was likely greeting me, swallowing me -there are around three main gates, in fact four – one closed forever and there is an another one, a wicket gate found in the west which was provided when the new building was erected. Previously there was only a compound running around the environs that the students from the government college would jump over and loom the flipside road.
The city’s court is a colossal building if uncared for would be just a headstone. It had rained heavily and the edifice was found like weeping… for whom? I was thumping over the wooden staircase of the ground floor.. ‘Please, where is the court number 6? I quipped.’
‘The family court…you are asking for the family court or no 6’… ‘Family court’ then it is 9. Go to the new building ‘replied the advocate. The lawyers in their dark aprons are moving off their rockers like angels decorated in murk… a few have their aprons folded and kept in the forearm and are seemingly lifting their moral credence and others have put them just as a hanging material. I have found two advocates entering their vicinity through their bikes as flying like supermen as the apron was on. The court is structured among all government edifices built during the British period and this area is cocktail of old and modern structures which have, sometimes a sense of Christianity and British authority. The court building is a curved Gothic beauty and nearby found is a modern theatre and a corporate hospital. I was running towards the court 9 cutting across a bridge connecting the old and new buildings.
Kanagaraj made a wry smile from his bench and unfolded his hands expressing you are late, I shrugged. The judge was about to come and a few bystanders – youngsters and some old ones even were all mumbling to each other.
‘My wife, I took a bit of beer, she is asking for divorce … I am a drunkard’ someone yelled
I beat her once, you see if you beat your wife the law comes in between. When she beats me where can we go?
She bites my… One showed his hands. I can’t bear that continuously
The women found on the other side of the court sustained a kind of talk… Might be they will be complaining about their lackluster or imbecile husbands. I found a face in among the women’s crowd that stuck my senses hard… Suddenly. It is the daughter of the principal under whom I served in a previous institution. The assistant called my name…the counsel has asked me to stand near him when I tried to board on the accused’s rostrum. He briefed…
Ramakrishnan versus with Srividhya the magistrate was reading the case study and asked, are you asking for divorce?
‘No, the woman should come back home, loyal to family, taking responsibility, my lawyer added’.
Did you serve notice?
Yes, 20 days ago and not responded,
Send a court notice and if it is not working, we will find further proceedings…The magistrate gave us the next hearing after 15 days. I met Deepa, the principal’s daughter on the way to the registrar’s office and asked about her presence; ‘meet your principal sir; she pointed the Portia tree where a small car was parked. Parvathy Nair, my erstwhile principal got out of the vehicle on seeing me and went a few steps in the rear and stood under the tree gripping it.
,’ Ramakrishna… you are here for a divorce, ‘not exactly… I am trying some legal counseling…
See we are asking for a divorce she replied
… But why…
My son in law being a physio has been addicted to alcoholism due to work tension… at one stage counseling could not help him. His in laws may cheat him if he continues in this form. He will be with us though, for the future of his son we intend to ask for the divorce. He has been hospitalized for many times and the liver is very weak’.
She was my principal when I was serving in a nursing college-, an able lady -, was in Gulf after her MSC in nursing… has become very old now.
’ I can’t stand like this for long as I have got a pace maker fixed’. She pleaded me for rest.
They departed. I could find the long, dangling hair of Deepa seemingly licking her butt was cut then in half size. I had a call from kanagaraj and met him in his chamber. The chamber is full of lawyer’s offices and his room was shared by five more of his friends. A man came and asked him, ‘notary sign sir… for what’? He asked ‘
For my son’s scholarship sir’. Kanagaraj being a notary gave him the signature, the man shoved off Rs 100 to him and proffered. He denied waving his hand; from a nearby room a continuous sound of typewriter was drumming my ears while I was peeing through the window – found the Portia tree under which a Vinayaga idol was kept radiating in hot sun. Shadows were dancing under the tree that gave the idol which was seemingly in a contemplating disposition a very inexplicable look.
The next hearing was on time and I was punctual. We took a cup of coffee before the proceedings. The judge asked me; sure you don’t want a divorce? No sir… means? I don’t want a divorce… he asked kanagraj what was the response for the notice. It was not collected it was returned was the reply.
Then you send a court notice… it would be delivered in person. ‘Ok sir’… if it was not responded we will go for a public advertisement…
Fine sir…the judge vacated us.
We went down and found madam Parvathy as usual found in the car. Kanagaraj departed me…
I asked ‘had hearing today too madam?
Yes. But we are winding up the case.
My son in law passed away by last week …it is hepatitis that challenged him… she was not completely poignant -it was looking like she was revealing a medical report while she uttered that. A small silence swallowed up all of us and I said ‘I will drop in to your house madam one day … she nodded her head.
I returned home with a heavy heart and while entering the front ,on the sofa a strange woman was found… she got up when I saw her… my senses then told me her face was more familiar for me… oh… it is .. Srividhya… I hailed her unconsciously… we could find, in a moment the space between us is getting shorter…more and more. But how…
R BALAKRISHNAN IS A TAMIL WRITER AND A BILINGUAL TRANSLATOR – BY PROFESSION IS PROFESSOR IN ENGLISH AN A COLLEGE.