The Fifth Wall…

Kalpana Rentala

Translation from Telugu (అయిదో గోడకల్పన రెంటాల) : NS Murty.

Kalpana Rentala is a well-known Telugu short story writer and novelist. Currently living in AUstin, Texas, USA. She is the editor and directors of the Saranga books. Started writing in her early 20’s, Kalpana wrote literary essays and poetry in the early phase of her writing career. She won the prestigious Ajantha Award for her first poetry book “nenu kanipinche padam.” (the words in which I appear). She wrote a poetry translation column with the title “aame paata” (Her Song) with several translations of women poets from various Indian languages. When she moved to US in 2003, Kalpana focussed more on prose writings including short story, novel and literary criticism. She won award from the Vanguri foundation for her two short stories in Telugu , one of which is ” Ayido Goda” (Fifth Wall) and her novel “Tanhayi” published in 2011 was widely read and recieved praises. Her stories basically talk about contemporary women issues particularly the status and identity questions of women in the post-globalization Telugu community. Her new story volume will be out soon next year.

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“Mommy! God damn, what does this mean in this newspaper? Have you gone out of your mind? You did not give even the least hint of what you have done,” Arti came shouting into the hall and hurled the newspaper into the sofa. As if she had expected it happen someday, Sarada looked coolly at Arti, gone red with anger

“Arti! Why do you shout at me? What’s wrong with you?” she asked, as if she was unaware of the reason for her violent reaction.

“You ask me why?” Arti looked at her mother rather searchingly.

Sarada donned a dark purple Gadwall sari with thin jari border; she put on pearl ear-studs and a slick gold chain was hanging loose in her neck; a cucumber-seed-shaped red vermillion was shining between her eyebrows; her eyes were tinted with collyrium; and in her carelessly plaited shampooed-hair, a streak of silver strand was shining here and there. There were dark lines under her eyes. But with a soft glow in her face borne out of self-confidence, her mother was looking strangely attractive.

Sarada put aside the book she was reading. Wiping her spects she looked at Arti. Her mien and manner did not betray that she passed through a calamitous experience in her life recently.

In spite of her dignified demeanor, Sarada aroused some inexplicable repugnance in Arti.

“Why do you pretend innocence, mom? What does this ad in the newspaper mean? It was not even three months since dad had died, and you need a new nuptial bed? Don’t you feel ashamed to think of marriage so soon? Is this the respect you pay to dad after years of togetherness? Huh!” Arti accosted her mother reflecting all her anger, angst and ridicule.

“Look, Arti! It’s your choice if you did not like what I did. But is this the way you are supposed to talk to your mother?”

“Well, then, is it the way to scurry for marriage no sooner your husband had died? Do you think I am dead? Did it not strike that you should consult me before? You have given the address and phone numbers as well. All our people might have known by this time. What should I answer to the barrage of questions they are going to ask from tomorrow? …”

Sarada gestured with her hand to indicate Arti to stop her flood of questions.

“What is there to be so ashamed of? I did not commit any impropriety? And, as for not informing you beforehand, well, I thought of doing once things fall in place,” she said.

“And now, at this age, do you need to run for marriage … that too immediately after daddy had died? Are you a sow burning with desire?” Although Arti did not intend it, the words she suppressed so long within had slipped out.

Sarada slapped Arti involuntarily. Though Arti got the blow, it was Sarada who was hurt more and there were tears in her eyes. Though she was prepared for such resistance from everybody else, she could not stand the words coming from her own daughter.

“Look Arti, I am going out as I have some important work to attend. We shall continue the discussion later,” Sarada walked out putting on the slippers.

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