The Enigma of Tangled Love

by Chandra Sundeep
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The enigma of tangled love

“Where have you been all these years, Sudha?” Paati jerks awake when my fingers graze her warm forehead. I know her mumblings are a result of a feverish delirium, but the mere mention of her name brings a sour taste to my mouth.

“It’s me… Ramya.”

I clench my fist, examining the photograph lying atop her Sudoku book. Paati and Sudha, in their best madisarus. Shimmery glass bangles in her hand and her smiles etched onto the aged paper forever. My heart skips a beat as I notice the bulge. “Why do you have this?”

Paati sits up, ignoring my protests. “It’s from her valakaapu, the only photo I could save.”

“I know Appa destroyed them all. You should’ve done the same.”

Paati sighs, pressing a finger against her bony chest. “She wasn’t evil.”

“How can you say that?! Shouldn’t you worry about your only son instead of defending her?” But when a wistful gaze flickers in Paati’s glassy eyes, I swallow my anger and embrace her. She’s my world, my everything…

“Why’re you wearing coconut fiber on your head?” She mumbles, caressing my coloured hair, and I burst out laughing. She leans in, humming a song in Mohanam ragam, and the notes transport me to a time when we’d sing together. Those were the best days of my life… until she ruined everything.

“Ramya, it’s time you know the truth.”

“Stop! I don’t want to hear anything.” I dash towards the open window, hoping the warm breeze will dry my tears.

“I’ve to get this burden off my chest. It’s not her fault. Her parents thought marriage would cure her.”

I gasp, thinking of scenarios that might justify her actions, but when I draw a blank I mutter, “Was she sick?”

“No. She loved someone else.”

“Tch… I already know that.”

“But,” Paati pleads, “you don’t know how unhappy she was…”

“Why? Was Appa abusive?”

“Not at all!” She picks up the photo and holds it close to her chest. “I was shocked when I found out the truth. And yet, it took me many years before I found the courage to help her.”

“What? You helped her elope?!”

She shrugs. “I couldn’t see her like this! She was willing to sacrifice for your sake. So, I promised to take care of you… and got her the ticket so she could join Giri in Bengaluru.”

“Giri who? Girishankar? Giriraj?!”

“Girija. Her childhood friend and one true love.”

I stagger away as the weight of this unexpected revelation hangs in the air between us.

“Your Appa was ashamed. He forbade me from telling you anything. Sadly, my time is running out… Open that drawer.”

With trembling hands, I untie the thin jute wire holding the faded papers together. There are countless letters from the woman I’ve despised my entire life. My vision blurs as I caress the handwritten words, and all of a sudden, my heart feels lighter.

Paati’s eyes sparkle when I pick up my phone and whisper, “Amma…”

 

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The Enigma of Tangled Love is my 500-word submission for Five00-20 | Where have you been all these years? A prompt based writing contest organised by ArtoonsInn.

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