Keeri who loved humans

Keeri who loved humans
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Friday, 13 March 2015

The year I got my husband back

Two or three months into our life in Nigeria, after five years of being married, I got my husband back. It was not planned.

   The provincial Office of Works started every morning at 7.30 and finished at 2.30, in the afternoon. I believe it was a system set up by the British to get the day's work done before the heat became oppressive. Balan, my husband, had nowhere to go except home at that time. He had no Sri-Lankan drinking pals as he had left his usual crowd at home in Colombo.  I actually liked most of them, gentle men, who dropped off from the group that frequented the Saracens Sports Club one after the other when they got married. Balan merely replaced one drop-of with another person to drink with.

   However, in Ikot ekpene, Balan had to start reorganising his life and routines. The boys, two and four years at that time, began to see him before they went to bed.  He talked with me about his work and his colleagues. I often thought I had been a huge failure in wife-terms. If a husband simply does not want to come home after work, what can you do? Surely there must be something wrong with me?

   I tried a few tricks. I'd ask him to send the car to me in the afternoons to go shopping into town in Colombo. He would do that, and Francis, the driver would come to pick me up around three in the afternoon, after Jane, our Ammeh (maid) had taken the children over after her lunch-break. I'd wander around in Pettah, (Fort was way beyond my means) and buy nothing except the odd T shirt for my sons, which stretched out of shape in the first wash.

   At the end of the half-hearted shopping, at around 5.15, I'd ask the driver to go to Balan's office. The offices of Walker Sons and Co. would be just beginning to disgorge its staff. I would send Francis up to tell Balan that I was downstairs and would he like to come home? He invariably told Francis to take me home and bring the car back after. My ruses never worked. The driver would look faintly sorry for me. I think he sussed me out.

   With the babies coming within the space of two years I had lost all connection with my first love - books. I admitted defeat with Balan and started looking for books to read. My father said that as long as he did not chase after other women, beat me up, or fail to provide house-keeping money, I was well-off. So much for a concept of marriage in those times in India.

   I often remember those years in Ikot ekpene, from 1962-'65, as the best years of a rather unremarkable marriage. In my youth I asked for so little, like many young Indian girls from Kerala. But in 1962, I started writing and sent off my article on education to a magazine published in Lagos.

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