My wife Ambika retired from service as a college teacher today, after putting in a long service of 33 years, two months and twenty-seven days.
It was I who accompanied her to the college on January 1, 1980, when she joined service. That was 45 days after our wedding on November 16, 1979.
Her first appointment was at the NSS college at Dhanuvachapuram in Thiruvananthapuram district. I was employed in Coimbatore then and both our families were in Alappuzha. The two of us were leading a suspended animation kind of married life then, neither here, there, nor together. Both of us were just 23 years old, which is hardly the age at which one sees anything seriously.
We married because we were in love (from school in my case and from college in hers) and her mother, after objections all through, suddenly insisted that the wedding ceremony be gone through immediately.
My pop, as you know, was as casual a person as one can ever imagine. He went with it and, virtually right out of the blue, without warning, we became husband and wife.
It was just after she had completed her post graduation in Calicut University and I was into my second year of employment straight after my graduation, trying to get ready to set up a home with her by the time she finished her studies.
We were classmates and she was the most brilliant student in the class.
Ours was a surprise wedding. Surprise, because it had looked so complicated that when the script changed direction, it changed so drasticalky that the marriage happened just as though it was the most natural thing to happen. One moment it was all overcast and there was no hope at all in the horizon, but suddenly the sky cleared and the sun was shining like the Dickens.
I was earning Rs.630 a month in Coimbatore then. Of this amount, I used to send Rs.300 to my mother because my home required support and Rs.300 to my wife in Thiruvananthapuram. Although she got a job immediately after our marriage, her monthly salary started coming only two years after her joining service because of the red tape none can escape at the university.
What I mean is, we had struggled quite a bit in the beginning and also later on. There was a time when I used to survive on an allowance of Rs.10 earned on alternate days by doing overtime work. I could do the overtime work only on alternate days, because a friend of mine was in a worse situation than me. The overtime responsibility at the office required the services of only one man and we used to split the loot between us.
Ambi and myself used to meet only once in two months at Alappuzha (where both our parents were living those days) so that we can save on bus fares.
I know she had struggled more than me, getting pregnant also in the meantime and watching every paisa she was spending. She used to resist the temptation to go to the then Trivandrum Hotel, near the hostel where she was staying, to order a ‘Butter Roast.’ The ‘Butter Roast’ was a special thing at this hotel those days and she somehow often used to get the temptation to have a ‘Butter Roast’ during the time she was carrying my daughter Lakshmi.
As I mentioned before, I had accompanied her to the college on the day she joined service. And, today, when she retired from service, I was there at the gate to take her back home. My right foot is still in plaster cast because of the injury already referred to in this blog and so I cannot drive; but I phoned up a friend to drive the car for me so that I can be there at the college gate to bring her home on the date of her retirement. My son Vishnu (who doesn't drive though he is 24) too was in the car.
In fact, Ambi does not believe in any such show of sentiments—she is a down-to-earth lady, who does not believe in display of sentiments. All the same, I felt I should not miss this opportunity to be the HIM who was with her on the day she began her professional career and also the HIM who was with her on the day she finished her long professional career as a highly respected teacher.