The Tale of a Junior Queen (The Telugu Tableau Through Translation)

Telugu original by: Chaganti Tulasi

Translated by: U Atreya Sarma
(With the permission of the original writer)

Chaganti Tulasi
INTRO: The Telugu original ‘Chinna Deveri’ [Junior Queen], written 45 years ago, was first published in the Andhra Jyoti Weekly (14 January 1977). This story goes back to the time when the young women from the upper-caste middle class families were just entering the jobs and it captures the environment and fallout of those days…, says Dr Chaganti Tulasi, the original writer. And she adds: In the current times, while women of all classes are progressing, they are also subjected to abuse irrespective of their age. How regress has tainted the progress during these four decades in the journey of women, this story helps one to make a comparative assessment of the situation. 
***

U Atreya Sarma
They were beating their chests and crying havoc. “It was only unsuspectingly that we advised her to go out and attend the bhajans,” they wailed like a banshee.

How could they ever sniff out even in their wildest dreams that she would foul her own nest? They only thought that the bhajans and the devotion to some saintly figure or God would wean her away from the depressing consequences of an idle and restless mind and keep her tranquil. They never smelt a rat that the story would have such a bizarre turn. It was not the bhajan but only her corrupted mind that should be faulted. If not this rogue, she could have found someone else. Anyway, she was so depraved that even the very God who created her could not have mended her ways.

It would naturally be a source of grief for anyone to witness the unenviable situation she was in by remaining unmarried, vegetating, and eking out a stagnant life. She certainly needed a support like a vine needing a prop to weave around. But they couldn’t help her find one. What was the use of grieving over something that the fate denied her? So, they reconciled themselves to the shocking development.

They could have consoled themselves had she found a guy with some semblance of eligibility. But the bloke she was hooked up with was a crook. He was already married, his wife was alive, and they were saddled with children not one or two but a large brood of eight!

The cat was out of the bag only after the sudden unfolding of a long story that had already hovered behind the smokescreen. They had no iota of suspicion on her. She behaved just like a normal woman. And she was too much of an adult for any conditions or restrictions to be placed in her way. She always came off as one minding her job and the home and nothing else. Even her colleagues had the same impression. She spent her time in the office typing out documents amidst so many men from 10 am to 5 pm on every working day. Couldn’t she find someone suitable among them? Of course, all of them must have been younger than her. Yet, wouldn’t it have been far better had she chosen to hitch with one of them instead of hanging with someone already married and living with his wife and children?

Alack! They wouldn’t have overly fussed about it had she picked out someone from a caste or community different from theirs provided he was unmarried. They would have reconciled to it by and by. Anyway, during these days who at all was unduly bothered with the type of crisscross relationships all over, mindless of one’s caste, community, or race? What a twist of fate! To run away with a married man who was living with his wife and children!

What a poor girl! What happiness or respect she would derive out of this odd relationship by falling in his trap? The money that he earned would be barely enough for him, his wife, and children. So, it was only this woman that had to bear the brunt to feed him and his family. He was certainly super slick. Or was it she that had trapped him? No. It was undoubtedly he that had fished her into his net. She was simply and helplessly beguiled by his looks. He looked like a prince charming though he had sired as many as eight children. Aged he was, but it did not show on his face. There was not even a wrinkle on his countenance. He was gifted with a sharp nose and glittering eyes. His blond lips were so synced that they looked like a sculpted straight line. When he flashed a smile, his lips opened out to lay bare the line of his shining teeth. No doubt, he was irresistibly handsome with a come-hither look. And the way he sang the devotional songs! Mesmerizingly melodious! Even a hard-core atheist would not help but wallow in ecstasy. Yes, the fellow’s very song had done her in.

It was not that she didn’t know how to sing. She did have a sweet singing voice. Ever since she began attending his concert, he switched over to singing even more enchantingly and it ended off as a smasher. Earlier he was bunking off the bhajans now and then, but ever since he noticed her presence, he was the first one to arrive on the scene. Before this development, the voices of the chorus were raucous and mismatching with discordant notes, raising the decibels to a hell.

Discerning that his voice among the males and hers in the females were melodiously conspicuous, those in the choir with hoarse, weak, and discordant voices began to control themselves and find their tongue to be in harmony with the rest.  The ensemble drew everyone – devotees, sceptics and non-devotees – to it, and the venue got overpacked. But nobody could even remotely sniff at this humbug. The two main singers were totally devoid of godly devotion. It was just a parade on their part.

Finally, the game was up. The liaison came to her older brother’s ears and it made his blood boil. Wasn’t she guilty of heinous immorality? It was a matter of family prestige, and how could he keep quiet? Wasn’t he concerned about her welfare?  Wasn’t it his bounden duty to intervene and talk her out of the pit she was falling into?

“Don’t you think what you’re doing is wrong?” he said, gently. She was simply unmoved, and callously silent.

“What an idiot you’re! Have you become blind? There is no element of love here. He’s just on the prowl for your money. That’s why he has snared you.” He showed the true colours of the fellow. 
With that, the lava burst out of the volcano. The brother didn’t know that it had remained covered and suppressed until then.

How would her pent-up feelings be known when she quietly nodded to everything and never raised any question all through her life? Way back when they said, “She has passed the school final, and she knows basic language and counting skills. Where is the need for college studies for a girl?” she didn’t open her mouth. The education of the elder brother wasn’t yet over. In the meantime, her younger brother was ready for higher studies. So, it was imperative to send him to the college.  It was right to give higher education only to the sons. Wouldn’t it be a double whammy if money was to be spent on a daughter’ education as well as on her marriage for the latter involved a heavy budget? Of course, she was the topper in the entire state in her school final exams. It was no wonder, since she was very intelligent. Even then, higher education for girls wasn’t that important. The money spent on a boy was an investment whereas that spent on a girl was simply a wastage. That was why she had been denied further studies. She was too obedient to demur. They would anyway get her married sooner or later, and let her bide the time until then by staying at home. “We will get her married in this season, in this auspicious season.” They went on repeating it from season to season, from year to year. Many a year rolled by in silence but with no result.

How would she while away the time with nothing worthwhile to do at home? They had suggested that she better learn typewriting and shorthand at least as a pastime. Did she raise her voice? No. Well in time, she proved her competence by clearing the exams so easily. Alongside, the elder brother completed his studies and he entered a job. Soon he got married and begot children too. However, there was no progress in her life. The brothers younger than her grew up, and they lined up demanding studies and marriage. The entire burden fell on the shoulders of the eldest brother. She was asked to take up the job of a typist so that instead of idling away her time at home she could earn something and help her elder brother by sharing some of the family expenses. She didn’t say a no, and simply obeyed their wishes.

She joined the job, and was regularly handing the salary to the family. A homely creature, she never spent any of the money for her own fun or fancies or entertainment. After all, one thing should be admitted. She was too naïve, plain, and mild to know of any such things. If there was a prize for this, she would be the world topper. She never uttered a word against anyone, or hurt anyone. She was too gentle a girl. Everyone in the family did know that her life was barren. They were all sad about it but they felt helpless. And their helplessness aggravated their sorrow.

Be it a woman or a man, they need a support and it comes in the form of a spouse. Unwed isolation unsettles a person and turns them restless. That was why, they advised her to go for the bhajans so that she would have a prop in the form of godly devotion. Her life would sail smoothly, they imagined. Never once could they guess even in their wildest dreams that the story would turn into such a twist. That her feelings and emotions would burn and boil into a lava, that it would turn into a volcano, and it would explode one time or the other.

Now see her explosive outburst.

“First off, it has been more than clear that you yourselves don’t have any love for me. How can you then question the love between me and him?” she hit the ceiling, and they were dumbstruck. None of them ever guessed that she could spit blood like this for she they always dismissed her as a dumb dunce.

“Have you sent me into the job out of any affection for me? Isn’t it just for the income that lands in your lap every month? Answer this first. Then only I’ll say whether his is love or lust.” She charged towards them, raised the tempo, and roared like a tigress.

“If you really loved me, why didn’t you join me in a college when I topped the SSLC exam in the entire state? Why did you imprison me like a shut-in? Speak up, you fellows.” She challenged them further. 
“Why did you join me in a type institute to learn typewriting? Was it for my own benefit? No, I know the reason. It was only because I would qualify for some job and join it and earn money for you all, lifelong. It has never been your intention to take care of me and save my money for my future. Open your mouth, I say.” She insisted on their response, but they were stunned.

“I know more than enough that your raving and ranting is not for my future or welfare, but only for the bucks I get for you. I see through your rank hypocrisy and crocodile tears.” She called their bluff, leaving them tight-lipped.

“Who’s selfish? Isn’t it you who are so? Reply me first, and then only will I tell you whether he is keen on me or my money. And whether it is egotism or altruism that is binding me and him.” She shot off the questions and dared them, but they were too nonplussed to utter even a word.

“You gave me a tall talk on the benefits of metaphysics by saying, ‘Anyway, you’re shorn of worldly pleasures. At least try to cultivate a spiritual bent of mind. Attend the bhajans. Believe in God and heed the call of the Baba. Thereby you’ll be freed of all your physical or mental stress and strain. Your mind will be clear like a crystal. Go on practising bhajans and meditation. That practice is so essential for you. Once you soak in it, you’ll never feel any unease or sorrow. You’ll have a smooth sail of life. Luckily for me, after all this practice, I have realised the importance of the material aspect of life on the hone of spiritualism. Your own Baba and your own bhajans have shown me the way. Now I know how to bridge worldly life and spiritual life.

“Are you sad that I am now singing the goodbye song to you all? Oh! Is it hard for you to digest it?

“Are you asking me, ‘Being a woman yourself, how do you have the heart to wreck the life of another woman?’ Ha! How sympathetic you’re, my dear bro, toward women!  Oh, are you grieving for her sake? But you have no trace of concern for me, but have all of it for her! Come on, spew out the truth! What exactly is your problem? Isn’t it that you’ll no longer be harvesting my money? Know that I know the answer well though you won’t spell it out.

“Whether I am setting her life on fire, or decking her with flowers, it’s a matter between her and me. Instead of leaving her to her woes, why do you vow to clear them up? Why are you so aggrieved? Would she lodge a complaint and would he lose his job? Is it illegal to have two wives?

“Do you say my life is doomed to break down? Do you say she tears down my life? As I said earlier, that’s totally between her and me. Whether my life will blossom or end ill-fated, she and I can sort it out between ourselves.

“You presume that by slavishly serving the first wife and her children I’ll be living a dog’s life and finally die an ignominious death. But if I slavishly serve my siblings and their children, would I be assured of a glorious death? If I willingly serve him, his first wife and their children who adore me, would my life be abject?

The children you talk of are the kids of the maharaja (sovereign) I’ve chosen to live with. His first wife certainly remains the maharani (empress). And I am the royal co-wife, junior rani. And we’re all sure that we can gel well with one another as a harmonious family. Yes, I am a junior rani!” She thundered, and all of them froze with their blank looks.
***

Bio: Dr Chaganti Tulasi, PhD (Hindi), hailing from Vizianagaram (Andhra Pradesh), is a well-known Telugu author, short story writer, poet, critic, essayist and translator. She worked in the Odisha Education Service for three decades and retired as Associate Professor. She also served as a Guest Professor at Hankuk University for Foreign Language Studies, Seoul, South Korea for two years (1992-94). Born in 1937, she is the daughter of eminent Telugu writer Chaganti Somayajulu, popular as Chaso.

Her writings have appeared in prestigious journals and anthologies in Telugu, Hindi and English including Indian Literature, Delhi; Samakaleen Bharatiya Sahitya, Delhi; Andhra Jyoti; and online magazines from the USA.

She has 33 books to her credit including those edited by her. Two of them are her Telugu originals – Tulasi Kathalu a short story collection which won the prestigious Best Short Story Writer’s Award (1991-92) from the Potti Sriramulu Telugu University, Hyderabad; and Rangante Ishtam (a collection of essays) which has received critical acclaim. Her poetry collection ‘Vachana Kivitvalu – Kunalamma Padalu’ is expected to come out in Sep-Oct 2022.

Tulasi’s translations across Hindi, Telugu, Odia and English in all genres have been well received. Prominent among them are – Olga nunchi Ganga ku (translation of Rahul Sankrityayan’s Hindi original into Telugu); Mahadevi Varma Geetalu (translation of Mahadevi Varma’s Hindi lyrics into Telugu); Ragamalika (translation of Medico Shyam’s Telugu short stories into Hindi); Brahma Rakshasudu (translation of Hrishikesh Panda’s Odia play into Telugu); Telugu ki sresht kahaniya (translation of best stories from Telugu to Hindi); Aranya Jayi (translation of Dr P Keshava Reddy’s Telugu novel into Odia).

She has received many prestigious awards like Telugu Bhasha Vikasa Samman (from AP Official Language Commission); Odisha Lekhika Samman; and from literary associations/trusts like Progressive Writers; Susheela Narayana Reddy; and Dr Avantsa Somasundar.

Email: chagantitulasi@gmail.com

Mob. +91 99633 77672


4 comments :

  1. Ravisankar VinnakotaAugust 11, 2022 at 9:42 PM

    Powerful story for those times. Translation is done well. Chaganti Tulasi garu is a great short story writer. I like several of her stories including this one.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The story "Junior Queen", which was written by Tulasi Chaganti was very powerful and realistic. We can see the characters in the story everywhere in our society.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The translation looks to be as powerful as the original story in Telugu. Enjoyed reading the story.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ghandikota ViswanadhamSeptember 26, 2022 at 10:47 PM

    The translation looks to be as powerful as the original story in Telugu. Enjoyed reading the story.

    ReplyDelete

We welcome your comments related to the article and the topic being discussed. We expect the comments to be courteous, and respectful of the author and other commenters. Setu reserves the right to moderate, remove or reject comments that contain foul language, insult, hatred, personal information or indicate bad intention. The views expressed in comments reflect those of the commenter, not the official views of the Setu editorial board. प्रकाशित रचना से सम्बंधित शालीन सम्वाद का स्वागत है।