Ukkunagaram; the township of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant is almost a Utopia. For in this township, there are no difference in strata, no rich, no poor as all are employed in the Plant. There are no keralites, Telugus, UPites either, all are ‘township’ites.
But for the women there is not much to keep busy. Women can be either Doctors, nurses, teachers or engineers who are working for the Steel plant. The more ambitious ones can go to the 35 km away Vizag city, the rest can do some odd business at home like trading in sarees or giving tuitions. The rest keep busy in housework, gardening, mahila samaj and kitty parties.
The latter two are good, people exchange ideas, views, socialize and do some social work, but on the flip side they also tend to comparisons; who has better sarees/ salwars, better jewellery, whose kid is more talented, which kid is more illustrious-those sorts.
Its Durga Puja time. Right from the 6th to the 9th day there is Bhog at the Kalibari (Kali temple).the whole township irrespective of religion, caste and creed gathers there. For apart from the puja, the socializing, the bhog of khichdi, charchari, khajur-tomato chutney and kheer is so scrumptious that only a life or death situation can keep anyone away. Even the employees on duty on special permission, go by Rota to partake this meal.
Evenings are for cultural programs. There will be professional artists enacting the story of Durga-Kali but there will be programs by the locals too.
And so on Saptami ( the seventh day), Shanti is in tears. Why? Because her neighbor Kavita has got herself new sarees for each of the day and her friend Nisha has got a diamond set and she has got neither.
Also all her friends kids are so talented. One got a prize for rangoli, one for singing. Another in the quiz competition and so on. And her kids? Her son Vishal is good in swimming but not champion material. Who cares for swimming anyways, its only cricket nowadays? And her daughter Vidya, the bane of her life. Neither is she good looking nor is she interested in looking good. She is mediocre in studies, fair in singing and a horrible dancer.
Her husband comes in to see her teary eyed and asks the reason. ‘You, you are the reason, neither have you bought any good sarees for me nor a single gram of gold.’
‘Saree, our wardrobes are bursting with sarees and gold is so expensive. I would rather buy some Reliance shares, atleast I will have some guaranteed returns’, he replied.
‘Yes yes think only about yourself’, she said before she could continue the phone rang. ‘Hello, oh hi Sujatha, oh is it, Congrats’, and she kept the receiver down. And then she burst into tears.
‘What, what happened?’, her husband asked.
‘Sujathas daughter got 1st prize in dance and see my kids; leave prize, no participation’, sobbed Shanti
So she continued in her morose mood the next day too. Just then Mrs.Sharma burst into the living room,’Shanthi Shanthi, guess what happened’, and before she got a reply continued, ‘Chintu, the brat fell down into the KBR reservoir. Vishal dived in and brought him out and maybe because of the shock, he had lost consciousness and had drank too much water. Vidya revived him. What brave children you have got.’
And after that there were non -stop phone calls and visitors, everyone praising her kids and when the Plant too recognized their efforts and awarded them, Shanthi was the happiest woman in the whole town.