Yellamma lived in the fishermen's basti with her family. She was the sole bread-winner for her family that comprised of her husband Suri, two daughters and a son. Married at the tender age of fifteen years she had never had the chance to enjoy her child-hood. She had to give up schooling at the time of marriage to Suri who was ten years elder to her. Within just a year she had given birth to her eldest daughter Nalini who was now in the tenth standard.
Nalini worked hard at her studies and she also helped her mother in the house-hold chores. Yellamma worked as a domestic maid-servant in a few houses. She had little or rather no support from her husband who was an alcoholic. In the initial few years of marrige Yellamma led a happy married life. Suri used to give whatever he earned by way of fishing to Yellamma by way of house-hold expenses. He used to drink occassionally but those times were few and far between. But gradually Suri used to start spending more on cheap country liquor and he got addicted to this vice. He used to come home drunk and would start beating Yellamma if she had no meat or fish to serve him for dinner. So Yellamma used to borrow some fish from her brother who was a fisher-man only to serve Suri. She thus pampered his ego instead of trying to mend his ways.
Now there was a woman in her colony Kalpana who had preferred to separate from her abusive husband and she lived in the same basti as Yellamma. Kalpana used to work in an export company as a master tailor. Her work demanded that she had to sometimes stay late at night to complete the pending orders.
Kalpana lived with her mother and daughter who had just completed her tenth in the first grade and was now training to be a nurse. Whenever Kalpana was held up late people in the basti would sneer about her leading a colourful life and they would generally make her life miserable. But Kalpana turned a deaf ear to their malicious slander. Yellamma also was a party to such idle gossip about Kalpana with the neighbouring fisher-women.
Yellamma however was blessed with understanding and kind in-laws who supported her emotionally and tried their best to mend their sons unruly and malignant behaviour. They had got a house built in the little plot of land that they owned in the fishermen's basti. Yellamma was relieved in the sence that she at least did not have to bother about the rent for the accomodation. Whatever difficulties she faced she bore stoically without a murmur of protest against her husband. But she used to send her children to the zilla parishad school. Though she could not complete her schooling she supported her children in their education and tried her best to support them by way of some-how getting them the required materials for their schooling.
Yellamma's daughter Nalini was a diligent student who worked hard at her studies. She was aware of her mother's difficulties and she would try her best to help her mother. Her father was never supportive of his daughter's education pursuits and given a chance he would shout and abuse Yellamma and his daughters in the filthiest language. Nalini in an attempt not to antagonise her fathe would wait till her father was asleep and then silently tip-toe to the terrace of her small house which was illuminated by the stree-light at one o clock in the night. She would study thus till the wee hours of five in the morning and then help her mother in attending to the house-hold chores of fetching water and preparing for the lunch boxes of herself and her younger siblings. She took care not to study in he father's presence.
Meanwhile Yellamma's father-in-law who had been suffering from tuberculosis had expired and her mother-in-law had come to live with them. The old woman would try to help her in whatever way she could. She would also plead with her son to mend his ways but all her pleas fell on deaf ears. Nalini's board exams were fast approaching and she had prepared her best for the coming exams. She was confident of securing good grade in the tenth examination. But unfotunately when the results were declared she was shocked to see that she had failed in Maths, English and Hindi. She was shattered. Suri was vindicated in his stand that girls were better off being married and they had no bussiness to go to school and study.
Poor Nalini could bear it no longer. She cried and shouted at her father that it was due to his unconducive atmosphere at home that she had failed in the examination. Suri slapped her for raising her voice at him. He also roughed up Yellamma for her upbringing and left home in a huff. Life went on as usual for Yellamma. She took all this in her stride as many fisher-women of her community were putting up with abusive husbands. They thought that it was their lot to suffer and bore it all silently.
One day when the children were off to school and Yellamma had gone off for work Suri asked his mother for some money to buy himself a bottle of liquor. HIs mother flatly refused saying that she had no money to spare on such a worthless fellow. Antagonised Suri banged her head against the wall. The poor old woman died instantly. Suri far from being remorseful tried to relieve her of her gold bangles and ear-rings.
They would not come off easily so he cut off his mothers ears and hands.
When Yellamma returned home after her work she was shocked to see her mother-in-law in a pool of blood. She cried and called her neighbours for support. Everyone were shocked to see the gruesome murder. The police arrived and impassionately conducted the investigation. They enquired of Suri and getting to know of his whereabouts they arrived at the adda and dragged him out of his place. Suri confessed to his crime after the police recovered a lot of money from him. He was arrested. The police suspected Yellamma also to have a hand in the crime. They believed that she instigated Suri in killing her mother-in-law. So she also was arrested. Poor Yellamma was bewildered as she did not know how to defend her case. She felt defeated in life and did know what wrong she had done in life to deserve such a punishment.
Yellamma hung her head in shame when she saw Kalpana coming with a lawyer to bail her out. She had wronged her and here she was trying to help her out. Finally Kalpana finished the formalities in bailing out Yellamma. Yellamma broke down and cried to Kalpana to forgive her. Kalpana consoled her saying that she did not hold any grouse against Yellamma and that she was worried about her children who were left helpless after her arrest. So she come to bail out Yellamma. Kalpana told Yellamma that as a mother it was her duty to think and strive for the welfare of her children instead of pandering to the unrealistic demands of an egotistic, tyrant husband. Yellamma was grateful to Kalpana and she understood her priorities in life. She was now going to work only for her children's future. "Better late than never", she thought. And now she had a mentor in Kalpana to help her succeed in her endeavour.