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The glowing sun was blazing molten-gold beams upon the lands. Sundar was frantically picking wild weeds off the paddy field. 

Drips of perspiration melted down his neck and stained his shirt. Nevertheless, he worked relentlessly to add some extra earnings to his daily wages. A man of few words, his actions spoke louder than his words.

His fellow worker, Kumar called out, “Sundar! Take a break, man. What will you do with all that money?”

“Daughter’s wedding fixed. Need it to be a grand affair,” replied Sundar, before immersing himself back in work.

***

Two decades ago, Sundar had moved to Vazhoor with his infant daughter, Valli. Having lost his spouse to an accident, he was the only caretaker for the child with no family to lean upon. 

Vazhoor, a dainty village in Tamilnadu, was a paradise on Earth. With a scanty population and vast fields, it was a hidden gem with breathtaking views, waiting to be discovered by itinerants and globe trotters. Vazhoor gifted the experience of an authentic Indian village, away from frenzy crowds and city chaos.

The village women folks ensured the safety of little Valli as she grew up under their guardianship and care; while Sundar left to toil hard in the fields and make ends meet.

Sundar often said, “Vazhoor has given me my true identity which no other place possibly can.”

***

Inhabitants of this tiny village had gathered to celebrate the grand wedding of their little daughter. Valli, Sundar’s daughter was not just his own, but the daughter of the entire village. She was cared for and brought up by the women folks with unflinching support and unconditional love.

Unlike the worn-out lungi, vest and a half-buttoned shirt that Sundar often wore to work at the fields, today, he was decked in a brand new white vesti with golden border and an off-white kurta. His forehead was smeared with a paste of Vibhuti, finished with a dot of sandalwood paste, topped with vermillion. 

Valli looked resplendent in the traditional red Kanchipuram with lotus motifs interwoven in gold thread.

The ceremony was soon over and the crowd dispersed towards the pandal where meals were served. The heady aroma of the gastronomic delicacies blended with the mild fragrance of Jasmine. The crowd felt ecstatic.

Valli knocked on the door to the green room, adjacent to the hall, where Sundar had quietly retired. This startled Sundar out of his reverie. He quickly wiped those tears away. 

Valli carefully locked the door and hugged Sundar.

She whispered softly, “Appa, you have sacrificed enough. Isn’t it time you reveal your true identity to the world? The danger of the past no longer haunts you. Your final responsibility has ended with my marriage. Let the world now know that you are my…”

To this, Sundarambal quietly sushed her daughter, “Let my identity die with me. I prefer dying as your Appa than be troubled by the patriarchal challenges that may be posed if I’m revealed as your Amma.”

***

Total word Count: 496  words excluding the title and glossary

Cover Pic Credit: Sammy Sander- Pixabay

Inspired by True events: https://newsroompost.com/india/shocking-tamil-nadu-woman-disguised-herself-as-a-man-for-36-years-know-the-reason-here/5098441.html

Glossary:

1. Vibhooti- Sacred Ash

2. Lungi- An informal, brightly coloured wrap around bottom wear clothing used by men in South India

3. Veshti- A formal version of lungi found normally in shades of white

4. Appa- Father

5. Amma- Mother


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