The Other Wife: Siddharth Katragadda
This was the statement often made to the protagonist Leela in The Other Wife. She was a rebellious daughter in her household, who struggled her way to life through a weak and lamenting mother. She married out of her caste in the conservative Indian society and of course against her father's will. She left her chosen husband as he betrays her trust and enters into a second marriage. She remained 'The other wife' all along her life.
Siddharth Katragadda's novel in poetic form continues in his second poem The Other Wife too. In this poem Siddharth unravels the complex inner emotions of a South Indian women with independent thoughts in a conservative society. The journey is quite challenging both for the writer as well as the protagonist.
The Other Wife is about Leela on whom we get the first glimpse in Siddharth's first poem, The Dark Rooms. She is the sister of Gopal and aunt to Siddharth. Her life story is beautifully crafted in three stages in the poem. Leela spurns her father's wedding plans and marries Salim, the man with whom she thought she would have everlasting love. However she comes out of the relationship soon when Salim, keeping with his Muslim polygamist practices, marries a second wife.
Leela is now set to repay the debt to her dead father. She agrees for the second marriage with Shiva, a man with whom her father had set the marriage. Even though Shiva is a married man now, he still keeps the fire for Leela within him. Leela understands that her situation will always be 'the other wife' in life. As she takes the seven steps around the fire, she recollects her painful memories as being the first wife to the other wife.
Shiva's death takes Leela to the abode of spirituality. She decides that she will not wed again and dedicate herself to the service of the God.
The poem reflects the inner voices of both men and women. The lyrics are simple and profound with emotional, narrative and philosophical reflections. The reader is grabbed into the life of Leela and starts contemplating on the thwarted past decisions. This is a highly suggested work for your own understanding!