I've read Sivasankari's Nakel some 10 years back but it is a story that I love to repeat since it impressed me a lot. I must admit that I am not very sure about the names of the main characters. As far as I remember they are Renuka and Muthuswami. I may however be muddling up the names. Kindly bear with me. The essence of the story remains the same. so read on.
The character of Renuka in a Hindi translation of Sivasankari’s novel titled ‘Nakel’ is an all time favorite among the many female characters I like. Nakel’ means the halter – pin/ halter fixed to an animal’s nose to tame/control it. I think it should translate into ‘mookannakayiru’ in Tamil but unfortunately a web search did not throw up any result so I am not sure. However my desire to read the novel in the original remains and I do hope I am able to lay my hands on it soon. The actual surprise is at the end of the story and Sivasankari is simply brilliant to come up with such a superb ending to a story that seemed so very stereotype.
Renuka, the typical docile, tolerant Indian woman is aware of her husband’s umpteen affairs outside marriage but cannot do much about it. She has inherited a business empire from her father but is incapable of running it and happily lets her husband Muthuswami manage things. The story begins with Renuka’s teenaged son telling her that he had seen his father emerge from a hotel room accompanied by his secretary. He felt that the two of them shared a fair degree of intimacy. Renuka waits for her husband to leave on a business tour and swings into action. She first visits the secretary’s home and realizes that her family solely depended on her income for sustenance. She meets the girl’s father and offers to get her married to Muthuswami. Her inability to satisfy him in bed due to health reasons was bothering her and she wished to do something about it. She assures him that his daughter would continue to support him even after marriage. She also offers the same explanation to her husband’s elder brother who strongly opposes the idea initially but relents later. By the time her husband returns a date for the wedding is scheduled and preparations are underway. The husband is inwardly delighted but puts on an appearance of reluctance. The wedding takes place as planned. The two leave for their honeymoon.
On his return from his honeymoon Muthuswami rushes home with gifts for his first wife and children and looks forward to some private time with her. He had after all neglected her long enough. But no, he is in for a surprise.
Renuka asks him to leave her alone and move in with his second wife.
“From now on you will be staying with her in her house.” She declares. “The world knows that I got you married to a woman of your choice due to my indifferent health. So no one will be surprised if you do not stay here. You may visit us during the day if you so wish. This will not be your home any more.”
““The company will pay you your salary on the first of every month and you can look for a rented accommodation to suit your requirements like all other employees.”
Muthuswami remembers that the company was legally in her name and he himself a mere employee. Taking her loyalty for granted he had never bothered to change the arrangement.
“Why did you do this to me?” Wails Muthuswami.
Renuka explains. The secretary would accompany him on his business tours and keep an eye on him. It would not be easy to fool her the way he managed to fool Renuka. When the question of the marriage of their children came up, society would accept a second wife in his life but would object to a father with roving eyes. As for her she would stand tall as the sacrificing wife who understood her shortcomings and placed her husband’s happiness before hers.
She has the last laugh.