Love and Loss
Love and LossIndian Writing
This story, written in the 1960s by Jayakanthan, presents the urban working class of the south Indian city of Chennai, then known as Madras, with a great deal of sympathy and vigour. It is the story of Thangam, a construction worker, and her son Chitti. Thangam has been sexually exploited as a very young girl, and deserted when found to be pregnant. After the birth of her son, life has been tough, and she has got by with the help of an elderly woman called Annamma, popularly known as Aappakkara Ayah. Chitti has had a fairly stable childhood because of the care of these two women. Over the years, Chitti has grown possessive of his mother, whom he has never had to share with anyone else. Like the other boys of the slum they live in, Chitti too has been drifting aimlessly, picking up bad habits through childhood and adolescence, before he is rescued by a father-figure who has mentored many a young man in the neighbourhood. ‘Thondar” Doraikannu, who respected and dearly loved his own mother, teaches Chitti some of the more important values of a life well lived, and tries to help him love Thangam unconditionally.Into this exclusive relationship of mother and son comes Manikkam, a roadside astrologer who sits near the site where Thangam works. A friendship develops between the gentle Manikkam and Thangam, which later deepens into love. Thangam becomes pregnant again, but this time she is determined to marry the father. However she has reckoned without Chitti’s intense disapproval of her ‘immoral” ways.Angered by what he regards as his mother’s betrayal of him, Chitti leaves home and takes up with a group of boys who belong to the shady world of petty crime, drinking and smoking. He refuses to return home and finally Manikkam goes away, as he feels he is the person who has come between mother and son. Thangam, by now in an advanced state of pregnancy, is again alone. She becomes depressed and dies soon after the baby, a girl, is born, but not before she makes Chitti accept responsibility for his baby sister. Chitti finds a new reason to live and comes back to his old home as a responsible elder brother determined to give his sister the best possible start in life.