Short Stories >> Murk te Manah >> He was not a writer (Hu Lekhak keena ho)
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
He was not a writer but one would see him sitting in every writer’s party or Kavi Samelan. Sital would know exactly which poets were participating in which event. Besides the newspapers, if there was anybody else who was aware of the subject of discussion and which writers were participating, it was Sital.
Although it is not so difficult to participate in writers’ meetings, it is not so easy either. One would get to hear strange tales from new writers although everyone was new in comparison to previous writers. Someone said, “I was praying secretly for twelve months to get in the company of writers.”Another said “I have an album full of photographs of writers.” Sital had filled a huge cupboard with books by writers. In addition to the company of writers, he had one more desire too. He possessed a big bag of letters from various writers belonging to different cities. Editors would write to him to sell their magazines. Writers would write letters of thanks which came in return for Sital’s congratulatory cards sent to them. Some female fans would write to him too to get them to meet some writers and at times to thank him for inviting them to writers’ meet and poetry gatherings.
He had entered into the writers’ circle in a strange way. One day there was a fight in his house. Sital’s small room was in the open space behind. Other members of his family - his wife, mother, three sisters-in-law, three brothers and two younger sisters lived in the three rooms inside. They fought, made up and would be awake till late at night, but Sital had nothing to do with any of them. Whenever his wife entered his room she would either find him awake with books or dreaming about them. On the day of the fight - the entire army, along with his wife, came and stood in his room. The mother started, “I say it is 2 am, will you leave this Quran or not?”
Sital smiled and left the book. His elder brother shouted, “Now you cannot fool mother by showing your teeth.”
Sital was shocked at his brother’s sudden attack, but he did not get angry, rather he stared at him strangely. He was looking at the full crowd - his little niece, who was barely taller than the bed, clapped her hands and said, “Today we have to take a decision.”
Sital did not even ask what the decision was about. He was so impressed with the little child’s style that he simply picked her up and put her in his lap. Pulling her cheeks he said, “Today the potato is very beautiful.”
The second brother shouted, “You are responsible for ruining the family honour. Talk straight. You can’t escape now.”
Sital found this rather odd. He looked towards his wife. She was standing like an accused in the corner… Sital realized that since everybody’s faces were red in anger, nobody will explain, so he asked his wife, “Tell me Manori, do you know anything?”
“The troubles you have given this poor lady are not hidden from us.” the younger brother shouted.
Sital’s smile vanished like an eclipse, yet he kept looking as if asking “Is it? Everyone has become a stranger to me? But tell me my fault.”
But nobody had anticipated this question. Now the mother felt something in her heart. She calmly explained, “Son, we had sent a proposal for Govind.The family of the bride has sent a reply that since we have not accepted dowry for Sital, how are we asking them!”
Now Sital understood the story. He breathed a sigh of relief. He relaxed and the smile returned to his lips. Looking at Govind he said, “Don’t buy ornaments for your wife. Why do you need dowry?”
The elder brother shouted, “And how will you get our sister married then?”
There was lightning in Sital’s eyes, chewing something he said, “If not very rich, she will get a middle class groom. If she has to get married after all then anyone will be good.”
The sister’s face turned pale, she got up and walked away. Sital frowned and said, “All the while you all keep chanting about destiny, so why don’t you now believe that what is in her destiny will happen?” Even though what he said was rational, but the atmosphere was so charged that it could not be cooled down easily. The elder brother made his arm wide and said, “Coward! Now you believe in destiny. Why don’t you drown in shame? I don’t know how a man like you was destined in this saintly woman’s life!!”
Sital’s face turned bitter. He said, “I feel that the more respect that I have given to you all, the more I have destroyed myself.
I wanted her to study but you refused. If I wish to take her to some writers’ meetings, you say ‘No’. I sit in one corner but I am not able to satisfy you.”
“You should possess some talent to satisfy others first.”
“Brother I can also speak the same bad language but by getting me married to Manori you have been unfair to both of us…”
“I have been unfair? I have been unfair…?”
When the mother saw the elder son coming to hit the younger son, she shouted, “Help, help” and Manori fell down and fainted. Now everyone got busy trying to get Manori to regain consciousness, and the fight ended.
When Manori was fine again, the elder brother said sharply, “Put to good use all of your education and start earning. You have just filled these cupboards with books…You are simply buying Sindhi rags from everywhere; you have filled up the dressing table from the top to bottom. You are not getting over with listening to Sindhi songs. You are receiving heaps of letters in the post…Who knows whether they are from girls or boys…You think of yourself as a sanyasi of Sindhi literature…”
Sital, looking down said, “Dada your anger is not justified. Everybody lives for himself, it is also necessary to do something for the community…Of course I am also earning…”
“What are you earning? You separated from the family. Now when a few children will arrive you will realize the value of things.”
Now, neither Sital was interested in replying nor the brother was ready to listen to anything. Sital came and sat down in his own chamber. Manori also came there. Sital asked, “From where did the sun rise today? You never enter this room except in the night.”
Manori answered in a scared tone, “I don’t wish to disturb you in your thoughts and work. But today I realize that nobody understands you. They are all busy in worldly enjoyment. They have not been able to see your pure soul…”
Sital had never expected such understanding from his wife. He said, “So have you seen a pure soul?”
“Of course I have seen it.”
Now there was no fear in Manori’s voice. She said, “Let’s go from here. I will go with you anywhere. As adult women we get frightened of our elders, but see how Kishin’s bride talks disrespectfully to him. The whole day she says, “Darling we will go here… Today I shall come to your office” So what if she is educated? We too have some understanding…”
“Wow Manori. So should we hire a teacher for further studies?”
That evening there was a writers’ meeting at a friend’s home nearby. Sital asked, “Will you come to the meeting?”
“I told you that I shall come with you anywhere - hell or heaven.”
Accompanied by Manori, Sital reached the meeting and sat in a corner. He heard the story, and the discussion on it, he heard passionate lectures on the scattered community. Then he gestured to Manori to get up and leave. Suddenly a writer asked him his name. “Sital”
“Sital?” Then there was simply an echo of ‘Sital’ Sital’ everywhere. Everyone had a desire to meet Sital. One lady writer said, “Oh, so you are the hidden talent Sital. My friends tell me that you make them read so many books and newspapers. One editor got up and said, “Maximum number of my magazine copies are sold by brother Sital but he stopped me from disclosing his name in front of you writers.”
Now the entire audience began looking at Sital with a loving gaze.
Sital said shyly, “You writers are actually the water from the well. I am only the medium that transports the water to the fields.”
A senior writer happily tapped his back and said, “Wow, what a metaphor you have given. You are a writer of the writers. What if the well water does not nurture the fields? Everything is a waste then, no matter how good the nurturing!”
All women writers surrounded Manori. They asked so many questions regarding Sital and his ways of life that it appeared as if everybody wanted to write a story on Sital.
That night Sital found it worthwhile talking to Manori. He asked her, “How did you like the meeting Manori? I felt as if an ocean of love had arisen.”
Manori kissed her husband’s hand and said, “I’m glad you took me along. If not the ocean I was lucky to feel at least a small rivulet.”
Sital was surprised by her kissing his hand. Without realizing, pressing her arms he said, “Manori, doesn’t the attitude of our family prick you like thorns? If you earn money for your family it is fine, otherwise they become strangers.”
Thus, speaking of life and times, they spent this unique night of their lives, piece by piece. Manori was asleep when Sital left the house. People had still not woken and the birds were happily singing. Sital was welcomed by white flowers in his compound.
While returning Sital filled his kerchief with white flowers but Manori was not in her room. She While returning Sital filled his kerchief with white flowers but Manori was not in her room. She had gone for her household chores long ago. Sital strew all the flowers in the three rooms, spreading their fragrance. Now Manori had become the bridge between the house and the compound for Sital. When the brothers-in-law would go to work, Manori would come to Sital and tell him, “Some child does not have an eraser or a notebook, another is angry about a dress…”
Sital was now being referred to as ‘brother-in-law’,’youngerone’,’dear uncle’, ‘small dada’ and what not.
That day he was lying with his arms behind his head. He felt his whole house and family members and their life dramas were a major novel. Suddenly an elderly writer entered his room. He said, “Come with me now. A group of writers has just landed from another city. We have to make arrangements for their stay and their meetings with other local writers.”
Sital touched the elderly writer’s feet and said, “Sir, don’t be worried. Everything will be taken care of.”
And truly good arrangements were made for the group of writers that had come from outside. A meeting for local writers was arranged for the evening in which every guest’s gaze fell on Sital.
Sital got up and introduced the city’s writers. Listening to his pure language and the style of his narration, the new writers asked, “Is Sital a poet?”
Someone else said, “His pure language is of a novelist.”
A third person said, “Oh God, he remembers each writer’s books, awards and even the languages in which his work is translated!”
A lady writer from another city said, “It is so strange that we haven’t heard the name of such a great writer! He must surely be a poet. He is introducing each one in such a poetic language!’
In between someone asked Sital for his introduction. He first kept saying “Wait” But in the end when he laughed and introduced himself, he said, “I am only Sital. I am not a writer,”
The writers from outside were shocked!
- Translated by Arun Babani