The poet communicates to his wife in the poem, the discord in their marital life. The reason attributed for the disharmony is their inability to share of childhood experiences. M.K.Naik states how the poem “Love poem for a Wife” is a revealing comment by Ramanujan on how an unshared childhood separates a husband and a wife who could otherwise have led a happy conjugal life.” The speaker’s father has been dead for several years now, and his wife’s father has also mellowed down with the onset of age. Therefore, they could not get authentic information regarding their childhood. While the speaker’s cousin and his wife happen to meet, they gossip over brandy and cashew nuts. The wife, during the course of these meetings displays an air of inquisitiveness regarding her husband’s childhood exploits. The husband begins to envy her village-dog ride; and the antics of the Seven Crazy aunts.
The husband and wife look into the albums containing the pictures of the family members. He terms it as “a sepia of a wedding picture;” as though the picture is painted in brown water colour. The photo is as hazed as their knowledge of each other’s childhood is. The wife becomes curious regarding frivolous stories narrated by the speaker’s brothers. For instance, the one about the noise that his father made while he bathed slapping soap on his back. The speaker has a foolish expression as reveals to his wife his father’s wedding picture. The father adorned a turban, while the mother displayed silver rings on her toes.
The husband expresses that of late, he has become a distinctive person in accordance to the precepts laid down by his late father in his diary. He describes this diary with the adjective “Smilesian” as these instructions are like those prescribed by the celebrated writer Samuel Smiles. These guidelines now defined his life. His wife’s father had become very old now. In his better days, he had embarked much on to mould the conduct of his daughter. However, now he held the belief that wickedness of the past is a myth in the present life, and has conveniently divorced iniquitous memories from his mind. He does not even find anything fishy in his daughter having spent the evening with a ‘nice’ Muslim friend. The friend had been obviously trying to touch her; but not according to the version offered by her to her dad.
His wife had not changed over the times, as only two weeks ago in Chicago,she had an argument with her brother James over the location of the bathroom in their ancestral house in Allepey. The speaker and James’ wife had to be content as mere spectators, and functioned only as cut-outs. The wife decided on a wager, and promised that if she lost she would hand over the family heirlooms and her husband’s earnings.
The poet prefers the Egyptian traditional method of marriage to the Indian ones that relied much on the scrutiny of horoscopes. The Egyptians would marry off the heirs to the thrones to their sisters. In such an event couples would have shared childhoods. Another option offered by the poet, is child marriage that allows babies to be betrothed, or even better, on vow in the mother’s womb itself.
© Rukhaya MK 2008
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