Ranga, the accountant's son, is one of the rare breed among the village
folk who has been to the city to pursue his studies. When he returns to his
village from the city of Bangalore, the crowds mill around his house to see
whether he has changed or not. His ideas about marriage are now quite
differentor are they?
WHEN you see this title, some of you may ask, "Ranga's Marriage?"
Why not "Ranganatha Vivaha?" or "Ranganatha Vijaya?" Well,
yes. I know I could have used some other mouth-filling one like
"Jagannatha Vijaya?" or "Girija Kalyana?" But then, this is not
about Jagannatha's victory or Girija's wedding. It's about our
own Ranga's marriage and hence no fancy title. Hosahalli is our
village. You must have heard of it. No? What a pity! But it is not
your fault. There is no mention of it in any geography book.
Those sahibs in England, writing in English, probably do not
know that such a place exists, and so make no mention of it.
Our own people too forget about it. You know how it is they
are like a flock of sheep. One sheep walks into a pit, the rest
blindly follow it. When both, the sahibs in England and our own
geographers, have not referred to it, you can not expect the poor
cartographer to remember to put it on the map, can you? And
so there is not even the shadow of our village on any map.
Sorry, I started somewhere and then went off in another
direction. If the state of Mysore is to Bharatavarsha what the
sweet karigadabu1 is to a festive meal, then Hosahalli is to Mysore
State what the filling is to the karigadabu. What I have said is
absolutely true, believe me. I will not object to your questioning
it but I will stick to my opinion. I am not the only one who
speaks glowingly of Hosahalli. We have a doctor in our place.
His name is Gundabhatta. He agrees with me. He has been to
quite a few places. No, not England. If anyone asks him whether
he has been there, he says, "No, annayya2, I have left that to
you. Running around like a flea-pestered dog, is not for me. I
have seen a few places in my time, though?" As a matter of fact,
he has seen many.
We have some mango trees in our village. Come visit us, and
I will give you a raw mango from one of them. Do not eat it. Just
take a bite. The sourness is sure to go straight to your
brahmarandhra3. I once took one such fruit home and a chutney
was made out of it. All of us ate it. The cough we suffered from,
after that! It was when I went for the cough medicine, that the
doctor told me about the special quality of the fruit.
Just as the mango is special, so is everything else around our
village. We have a creeper growing in the ever-so-fine water of the
village pond. Its flowers are a feast to behold. Get two leaves from
the creeper when you go to the pond for your bath, and you will
not have to worry about not having leaves on which to serve the
afternoon meal. You will say I am rambling. It is always like that
when the subject of our village comes up. But enough. If any one
of you would like to visit us, drop me a line. I will let you know
where Hosahalli is and what things are like here. The best way of
getting to know a place is to visit it, don't you agree?
What I am going to tell you is something that happened ten years
ago. We did not have many people who knew English, then. Our
village accountant was the first one who had enough courage to
send his son to Bangalore to study. It is different now. There are
many who know English. During the holidays, you come across
them on every street, talking in English. Those days, we did not
speak in English, nor did we bring in English words while talking
in Kannada. What has happened is disgraceful, believe me. The
other day, I was in Rama Rao's house when they bought a bundle
of firewood. Rama Rao's son came out to pay for it. He asked the
woman, "How much should I give you??" "Four pice,?" she said.
The boy told her he did not have any "change?", and asked her to
come the next morning. The poor woman did not understand the
English word "change?" and went away muttering to herself. I too
did not know. Later, when I went to Ranga's house and asked
him, I understood what it meant.
This priceless commodity, the English language, was not so
widespread in our village a decade ago. That was why Ranga's
homecoming was a great event. People rushed to his doorstep
announcing, "The accountant's son has come,?" "The boy who
had gone to Bangalore for his studies is here, it seems,?" and
"Come, Ranga is here. Let's go and have a look?"
Attracted by the crowd, I too went and stood in the courtyard
and asked, "Why have all these people come? There's no
performing monkey here?"
A boy, a fellow without any brains, said, loud enough for
everyone to hear, "What are you doing here, then??" A youngster,
immature and without any manners. Thinking that all these
things were now of the past, I kept quiet.
Seeing so many people there, Ranga came out with a smile
on his face. Had we all gone inside, the place would have turned
into what people call the Black Hole of Calcutta. Thank God it
did not. Everyone was surprised to see that Ranga was the
same as he had been six months ago, when he had first left
our village. An old lady who was near him, ran her hand over
his chest, looked into his eyes and said, "The janewara4 is still
there. He hasn't lost his caste?" She went away soon after that.
Once they realised that Ranga still had the same hands,
legs, eyes and nose, the crowd melted away, like a lump of sugar
in a child's mouth. I continued to stand there. After everyone
had gone, I asked, "How are you, Rangappa? Is everything well
with you??" It was only then that Ranga noticed me. He came
near me and did a namaskara respectfully, saying, "I am all
right, with your blessings?"
I must draw your attention to this aspect of Ranga's character.
He knew when it would be to his advantage to talk to someone
and rightly assessed people's worth. As for his namaskara to
me, he did not do it like any present-day boy with his head up
towards the sun, standing stiff like a pole without joints, jerking
his body as if it was either a wand or a walking stick. Nor did he
merely fold his hands. He bent low to touch my feet. "May you
get married soon,?" I said, blessing him. After exchanging a few
pleasantries, I left.
That afternoon, when I was resting, Ranga came to my house
with a couple of oranges in his hand. A generous, considerate
fellow. It would be a fine thing to have him marry, settle down
and be of service to society, I thought.
For a while we talked about this and that. Then I came to
the point. "Rangappa, when do you plan to get married??"
"I am not going to get married now,?" he said.
"I need to find the right girl. I know an officer who got married
only six months ago. He is about thirty and his wife is twenty-
five, I am told. They will be able to talk lovingly to each other.
Let's say I married a very young girl. She may take my words
spoken in love as words spoken in anger. Recently, a troupe in
Bangalore staged the play Shakuntala. There is no question of
Dushyantha falling in love with Shakuntala if she were young,
like the present-day brides, is there? What would have happened
to Kalidasa's play? If one gets married, it should be to a girl who
is mature. Otherwise, one should remain a bachelor. That's why
I am not marrying now?"
"Is there any other reason?"
"A man should marry a girl he admires. What we have now
are arranged marriages. How can one admire a girl with milk
stains on one side of her face and wetness on the other, or so
young that she doesn't even know how to bite her fingers?"
"One a neem fruit, the other, a bittergourd?"
"Exactly!?" Ranga said, laughing.
I was distressed that the boy who I thought would make a
good husband, had decided to remain a bachelor. After chatting
for a little longer, Ranga left. I made up my mind right then, that
I would get him married.
Rama Rao's niece, a pretty girl of eleven, had come to stay with
him. She was from a big town, so she knew how to play the
veena and the harmonium. She also had a sweet voice. Both
her parents had died, and her uncle had brought her home.
Ranga was just the boy for her, and she, the most suitable bride
Since I was a frequent visitor to Rama Rao's place, the girl
was quite free with me. I completely forgot to mention her name!
Ratna, it was. The very next morning I went to their house and
told Rama Rao's wife, "I'll send some buttermilk for you. Ask
Ratna to fetch it?"
Ratna came. It was a Friday, so she was wearing a grand
saree. I told her to sit in my room and requested her to sing a
song. I sent for Ranga. While she was singing the song
Krishnamurthy, in front of my eyes. Ranga reached the door.
He stopped at the threshold. He did not want the singing to
stop, but was curious to see the singer. Carefully, he peeped in.
The light coming into the room was blocked. Ratna looked up
and seeing a stranger there, abruptly stopped.
Suppose you buy the best quality mango. You eat it slowly,
savouring its peel, before biting into the juicy flesh. You do not
want to waste any part of it. Before you take another bite, the
fruit slips out of your hand and falls to the ground. How do you
feel? Ranga's face showed the same disappointment when the
"You sent for me?" he asked as he came in and sat on a
Ratna stood at a distance, her head lowered. Ranga
repeatedly glanced at her. Once, our eyes met, and he looked
very embarrassed. No one spoke for a long while.
"It was my coming in that stopped the singing. Let me leave?"
Words, mere words! The fellow said he would leave but did
not make a move. How can one expect words to match actions
in these days of Kaliyuga?
Ratna ran inside, overcome by shyness.
After a while, Ranga asked, "Who is that girl, swami?"
"Who's that inside?" the lion wanted to know. The he-goat
who had taken shelter in the temple replied, "Does it matter
who I am? I am a poor animal who has already eaten nine lions.
I have vowed to eat one more. Tell me, are you male or female?"
The lion fled the place in fear, it seems.
Like the he-goat, I said, "What does it matter to either of us
who she is? I'm already married and you aren't the marrying kind?"
Very hopefully, he asked, "She isn't married, then?" His voice
did not betray his excitement but I knew it was there.
"She was married a year ago?"
His face shrivelled like a roasted brinjal. After a while, Ranga
left, saying, "I must go, I have work at home?"
I went to our Shastri the next morning and told him, "Keep
everything ready to read the stars. I'll come later?" I tutored him
in all that I wanted him to say.
I found no change in Ranga when I met him that afternoon.
"What's the matter? You seem to be lost in thought,?" I said.
"Nothing, nothing's wrong, believe me?"
"Headache? Come, let's go and see a doctor?"
"I have no headache. I'm my usual self?"
"I went through the same thing when the process of choosing
a girl for me was going on. But I don't think that that could be a
reason for your present condition?"
Ranga stared at me.
"Come, let's go and see Shastri,?" I suggested. "We will find
out whether Guru and Shani are favourable for you or not?"
Ranga accompanied me without any protest. As soon as
Shastri saw me, he exclaimed, "What a surprise, Shyama!
Haven't seen you for a long time?"
Shyama is none other than your servant, the narrator of
I got angry and shouted, "What? Only this morning..?" Shastri
completed my sentence, "You finished all your work and are
now free to visit me?" Had he not done so, I would have ruined
our plan by bursting like grains that are kept in the sun to dry.
I was extremely careful of what I said afterwards.
Shastri turned to Ranga. "When did the young son of our
accountant clerk come home? What can I do for him? It's very
rarely that he visits us?"
"Take out your paraphernalia. Our Rangappa seems to have
something on his mind. Can you tell us what's worrying him?
Shall we put your science of astrology to the test?"
There was authority in my voice as I spoke to Shastri. He
took out two sheets of paper, some cowries and a book of palmyra
leaves, saying, "Ours is an ancient science, ayya. There's a story
to it... But I won't tell you that story now. This is not a harikatha
which allows you to tell a story within a story... You may get
bored. I'll tell it to you some other time?"
Shastri moved his lips fast as he counted on his fingers and
then asked, "What's your star??" Ranga didn't know. "Never mind,?"
Shastri indicated with a shake of his head. He did some more
calculations before saying in a serious tone, "It's about a girl?"
I had been controlling my laughter all this while. But now I
burst out laughing. I turned to Ranga. "Exactly what I had said?"
"Who is the girl??" It was your humble servant who asked
Shastri thought for a while before replying, "She probably
has the name of something found in the ocean?"
"Could it be Pachchi, moss?"
"Must it be moss if it's not Kamala? Why not pearl or ratna,
the precious stone?"
"Ratna? The girl in Rama Rao's house is Ratna. Tell me, is
there any chance of our negotiations bearing fruit?"
"Definitely,?" he said, after thinking for some time.
There was surprise on Ranga's face. And some happiness. I
"But that girl is married..?" I said. Then I turned to him. His
face had fallen.
"I don't know all that. There may be some other girl who
is suitable. I only told you what our shastra indicated,?"
We left the place. On the way, we passed by Rama Rao's
house. Ratna was standing at the door. I went in alone and
came out a minute later.
"Surprising. This girl isn't married, it seems. Someone told
me the other day that she was. What Shastri told us has turned
out to be true after all! But Rangappa, I can't believe that you
have been thinking of her. Swear on the name of Madhavacharya5
and tell me, is it true what Shastri said?"
I do not know whether anyone else would have been direct.
Ranga admitted, "There's greater truth in that shastra than we
imagine. What he said is absolutely true?"
Shastri was at the well when I went there that evening. I
said, "So Shastrigale, you repeated everything I had taught you
without giving rise to any suspicion. What a marvellous shastra
yours is!?" He didn't like it at all.
"What are you saying? What you said to me was what I could
have found out myself from the shastras. Don't forget, I developed
on the hints you had given me?"
Tell me, is this what a decent man says?
Rangappa had come the other day to invite me for dinner. "What's
the occasion??" I asked.
"It's Shyama's birthday. He is three?"
"It's not a nice name Shyama,?" I said. "I'm like a dark piece
of oil-cake. Why did you have to give that golden child of yours
such a name? What a childish couple you are, Ratna and you! I
know, I know, it is the English custom of naming the child after
someone you like... Your wife is eight months pregnant now.
Who's there to help your mother to cook?"
"My sister has come with her?"
I went there for dinner. Shyama rushed to me when I walked
in and put his arms round my legs. I kissed him on his cheek
and placed a ring on his tiny little finger.
Allow me to take leave of you, reader. I am always here, ready
to serve you.