Short Stories >> Nakhreliyun >> Nest Destroyed (Akhero Feti viyo)

Short Stories

Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani

Sitting with her hands around her knees, swaying her body, Rukma was looking sadly outside the window. She softly whispered, "Shanti, I am too mischievous. If I had not troubled him, he would have never said "I am going to the hostel because my exams are on. I can never study at home". Then I would have been staying back in Baroda itself. I would have come back only when he would have got a job in Bombay"

Shanti was listening to Rukma but at the same time she was making a chapati with her hands. Suddenly Rukma pulled her hand and said, "It will be so joyful Shanti when he comes back after giving his commerce exams. Tell me the truth, it will be so nice isn't it?"

Shanti put the chapati down from the tawa, made a mischievous face and looking in the direction of her friend, said, "Crazy" and they both started laughing.

Shyam came and said, "Thank God that Shanti has found a good-natured neighbour, at least you both are laughing".

Surprised, Shanti asked, "When did you come?"

"What a question? I have just come". Saying this Shyam went to change his clothes. Rukmini made a face then murmured, "What is Dada saying. Am I a neighbour?"

In an arrogant manner she moved the curtain and walked away.

Shyam changed his clothes and sat down to read. There was a silence in both the rooms. The house was looking gloomier under the sharp lights from the bulbs. After a while the food was ready. Shanti came and sat on the cot, asked softly, "Shall I serve the food?"

"No, wait for twenty minutes. Let me finish reading this newspaper".

Shanti sat down quietly. But the mischievous Rukmini came in tiptoe and stood behind Shyam's chair, took the table lamp's button quietly and switched it off. She then put her hands behind her and stood there. Shyam said, "Now you have started these tricks of yours. Dog's tail can never be straight..."and he switched on the light. "Be careful while talking. I did not switch off the light. Look behind and see who is standing.

Shyam looked behind and said, "Oh it is you Rukma?"

Rukma again switched off the light again and said, "Come on, first eat your food. Shanti must be hungry too, isn't it?"

Shyam just said yes and like an obedient child came and sat down to eat. All three relished their meal. The next morning Shyam left for his office and as soon as Rukmini woke up, she asked, "Shyam Dada has left? Why didn't he wake me up? "After this there was friendly banter between the friends the entire day and when it was evening Shyam came back. Shanti asked him, "How have you come back so early? Are you feeling okay?"

"Oh. It is a problem if you return early. A problem if you return late. Here take these black Jamuns". Shanti gave more than half of the jamuns to Rukmini, gave a handful to her husband and kept just one single jamun for herself. Rukma said, "Everyone should get a share of it. I cannot eat so many jamuns".

"Shanti doesn't like them so she is not eating. Otherwise she tells me everyday to bring some fruit, and now when I have brought it, she doesn't like it". Shyam said.

"Oh Dada, I just remembered that today Shanti has cut a kurta for me which I have stitched. Wait I shall wear it and show you. In a minute this mischievous one wore a kurta with big bold print and put a dupatta around her neck casually, saying, "If Shanti opens tailoring classes the entire neighbourhood will benefit. You are very clever indeed. You have selected Shanti rather carefully" Dada was embarrassed listening to praises of himself and his wife. He said, "How can one say? Perhaps your stitching may be good".

Rukma went red in the face. She said, "You simply go on saying anything..." The same cheerfulness was visible at the dinner table. But after dinner as soon as Shyam went to pick a book to read, noticing dust on the books he said, "Shanti I wonder what you do the whole day sitting at home. There is so much dust accumulated on the books".

Like a sulking child, making a gloomy face, Shanti came in and started dusting the books with her dupatta. Shyam nudged her and said, "Now go from here". Shanti went and sat on the cot with a heavy heart. Rukma appeared from nowhere and putting her hands behind her back, she scolded Shyam in an endearing way saying, "You read the books and Shanti should clean them! My husband would never do this". Shyam started laughing.

"You have made Lachman crazy about you isn't it? If I was him, I would have taken away all your arrogance".

"After this just see why am I getting arrogant.I am going to read Intelligent Woman's Guide book"

"As if you are too intelligent" Shyam laughingly said.

To put an end to this topic Shanti gently said, "Now watch her reading. She will not stop giving back answers".

Rukma actually went to her room and started reading a book. Shyam could not help noticing that Shanti was a bit upset. So, he tickled her and in a very soft voice he said, "You really know how to cut kurtas very well. The kurta was suiting Rukma so well. Shanti was quiet and looking at the ceiling she was lost in thought. She visualised Rukma's body and a thought pricked her like a rat-bite. 'Perhaps my body is not like hers, that is why. That is why...'She couldn't think beyond that. Shyam again tried to distract her but he couldn't get his wife's attention.

Early next morning, opening the curtain, Rukma walked in, shouting," Wah, Shanti has already prepared the tea and you are still sleeping"

Shyam opened his eyes. Rukma came close and told him, "See, clouds have gathered outside".

Looking at the clouds Shyam got excited like a child who has seen a toy. Excitedly he said, "Shanti today we shall go to Juhu".

Shanti simply said, "Yes" while pouring tea into the kettle. But Rukma was dancing and saying, "We shall definitely go. We shall definitely go. Dada you are so nice. My husband always says that I go mad seeing clouds. I shall go and get ready".

Shanti said, "You can go. I don't feel like stepping out today".

Shyam said, "This is strange. Some people are allergic to brinjals. Some to onions! The clouds excite one and the same clouds make the other gloomy. Okay then why should I miss office today?"

"Have you ever missed office before that you wish to do today?" Shanti taunted and her voice had the hurt of an injured bird.

Shyam immediately sat on a small stool near her and asked,

"Are you okay?"

"How does it matter to you that I am okay or not?"

"Look you are taunting me now. If you are unwell, I feel the pain".

"You feel the pain or you get an opportunity to read books? From where have you learnt to talk this loving language today?"

"Leave it. You are only taunting in a painful way.

The Juhu plan was cancelled but Shanti's restlessness did not stop. Shyam left for office, Rukma went off to her stitching class and Shanti kept thinking with a restless mind. "What a wonderful life I have spent all these years, now that that life seems to have been suffocated in this house. My mind has become like a stone. What has happened to me?"

She went around the neighbourhood. She felt lighter, finished her household chores and sat down to read a novel.

When Rukma returned in the afternoon from her stitching class, Shanti spoke a lot. But as soon as Shyam returned in the evening Shanti grew silent. She searched within her heart for a reason for this behaviour. There was a question written under this darkness, 'Has Shyam ever returned this early before? Nowadays he returns home early every day. Yes, he did come early during the few days of marriage, but since the last two years I have never seen him come home this early.' Her heart said, 'Something good happening any time is nice'. But no, she doesn't like him coming home early from office these days. The whole month passed off. The joy in the house had diminished. But Shanti's heart had shrunk so much that it was difficult to decide if she was dead or alive.

Her eyes would shed tears on every small thing, but Shyam would somehow manage to cheer her up by a giving her hug before leaving for office. Shanti would sit alone and wonder that in the past when she would cry for days on end for small things, he had never ever tried to console her in this way. Her mind would argue that it is good if some one learns a good thing, but her heart would shrink and feel that she doesn't need any borrowed love. And as Shanti was getting alienated from Shyam, his mischiefs went on increasing.

One evening, Lachman too landed home after appearing for his exams. Rukma filled the house with excitement. There was a wave of happiness with Lachman's arrival. Lachman and Rukma were full of mischief and laughter the full day. Shanti began having fever so she spent most of the day lying down on the cot. When Rukma would leave for her stitching class in the afternoon, Lachman would bring a novel and sit beside the ailing Shanti's cot. When Shyam returned in the evening, he too would join in the merriment. But when he would think of Shanti, he would go and touch her forehead. At times he would pull Lachman and Rukma towards Shanti's cot. Suddenly Shanti felt a little older in their company. She would not be able to laugh out loudly. She would strictly stop Shyam from tickling her or fooling with her. It feels good to tease somebody who is receptive to being teased, but because of the atmosphere in the house, Shyam could not help teasing her. Shanti would stop him repeatedly, but at the same she would curse herself inwardly. She would think, 'You fool, how much you wished for happiness in your house and for your husband to be mischievous and happy, and now that it has happened, you are pushing it away!'

But a suffering a creature would shout, "Why couldn't I do all this? What is the relationship between a borrowed thing and a heartbeat?" and tears would flow down her eyes, wetting the pillow.

When Lachman had seen Shanti crying for the first time, he came to her lovingly and told her, "Why don't you read something? In this way, crying alone, you will grow more ill".

"I'm not crying". Shanti said this but her dam had broken and she started weeping bitterly and sobbing in such a manner that the cot was shaking. Lachman had tears in his eyes. He tried his best to ask her what is the matter but he couldn't do so. He couldn't even touch her arm and kept looking at Shanti and suddenly his tears fell on the back of her neck, and Shanti gave a jerk.

"Lachman I shall never ever cry again". Shanti said, wiping her tears and sitting against the pillow. She said, "I cannot read anything now. My heart is so broken that tears appear on every little thing. My heart is very sad".

"I shall continue reading something or the other to you until I get a job". After that Lachman kept reading out to her for the whole week. Even when her tears would flow on listening to some love story, they wouldn't pierce her heart. Gradually she began doing her household chores. There was another reason too for her illness getting less and that reason was rather strange. While cooking Rukma would sulk and throw herself on the cot, sobbing, and Lachman would come and tell Shanti, "Look, she is crying on such a small thing".

Rukma would stop crying, would jump up and force Shanti out of cooking and push her on the cot, saying, "First listen to me. He is saying..."

"No Shanti, I was not saying anything like that".

"But why aren't you allowing her to listen?"

"I am telling her".

Okay, you tell her".

"No, okay, you tell her.

"I am not telling her..."

Shanti would not get tired of this drama but she would give out a laugh and that laughter would act as a balm for her wounds. But she would announce her decision in such a manner that they both would patch up again. Quite often, during such dramas, she would not let Rukma talk and clasping Rukma's mouth she would ask Lachman "Now tell me, what is the fight about?" Finally, she would blame Rukma and say, "Should women have so much pride? How does it matter if you give in? The one who gives in is the winner".

"Yes, the one who gives in is the winner". Rukma would laugh. But one day Shanti, after a bath, went tip-toe into her room or perhaps Lachman and Rukma were so engrossed in their argument that they did not notice her. Shanti heard something that was not for her to listen. Lachman was saying, "Listen, look at Shanti. Is she desperate for small things? She is so calm".

"Yes. She puts down always. How will you not consider her good? It hardly matters to her whom she considers at fault or not".

Shanti was so shocked that she sat down for a long time. There was a silence on the other side of the curtain too. No one spoke till afternoon. Rukma silently cooked the food. Lachman was looking at the pictures. Rukma placed the food on the mat and quietly said, "Come and eat".

Lachman said from afar, "I am not hungry".

Rukma went quickly and draped her sari, picked up her tailoring bag and was ready to leave when Shanti came and said, "Rukma what have you cooked? I am not enjoying my food...And what is this Lachman? The food is getting cold and you are looking at pictures? Get up. If Rukma goes away, what will you eat?"

Lachman got up with a bitter face. Shanti asked Rukma to get the pickle and brought her food and sat on the mat.

Shanti told Lachman, "You are lucky that you have got a wife like Rukma. The teachers praise her so much. She has learnt tailoring so well within two months which no other girl has been able to do..."

Embarrassed, Rukma said, "Enough now. Your praises might make me egoistic".

Shanti put her hand around her neck, holding Rukma's chin, she said, "Will he find anyone so tender and humble like my Ruku?" Tears started flowing from Rukma's eyes and she wiped them with Shanti's pallu. "Come on, now, eat. Is there a tap in your forehead that tears flow on anything?"

Rukma looked accusingly at Lachman and said, "Now I won't eat at all". and just as she was getting up, Shanti caught her and made her sit down. Rukma somehow ate something and left for her tailoring class.

Lachman drank water and without washing his hands, kept thinking on the mat.

Shanti asked him, "What are you thinking about?"

Lost in his own thoughts, Lachman, looking downwards, answered, "How does one deal with such a girl who thinks that she is better than you?"

There were shrieks heard inside Shanti's inwardness, 'She is telling the truth. She is telling the truth. Even my Shyam finds her better than me'.

But outwardly she laughingly said, "Do you find anything wrong in that?"

Lachman sat cross-legged and asked, "Tell me madam, in what way is she better than you?"

Shanti felt overwhelmed at Lachman's closeness. She said, "We fail to see the good in our close people. From now on, you should start seeing for the good qualities in her mischief and you will see what a juicy lady she is," while saying this her eyes were filled with tears. She pulled the curtain and went on her cot.

There was perhaps a stubborn voice within her saying, 'How I wish. How I wish that my Shyam is also able to see me. Only for a moment. Only for a moment. That's all. Not for a lifelong, because those moments when he had seen me as a newly wedded bride and he had appreciated my hair, my style, my walk, everything. Maybe I am not all that, even then there is an unsatiated thirst within me. But now even that thirst is not there. When Shyam is not with me then whom should I thirst for?"

When Shanti felt this thought that Shyam is no longer with her these words circulated a poison in her entire body and each part of her body was writhing in pain. When Shyam returned home Rukma and Lachman had gone for a movie. Shanti was on the cot, crying. Shyam was a bit annoyed.

"You are always lying around lazily. I wonder how you like such a life. Have you ever seen Rukma in this state?"

The poison that was troubling her had now glorified. She replied angrily, "Why will Rukma cry? Why will a woman who receives love of two people ever cry?"

"So, she has got the love of two people and you have been starved. Is that so? There is only garbage in your mind".

"It would have been really nice if there was only garbage in my mind. Then I would have not understood anything and I would not have felt sad about anything"

Suddenly Shyam asked, "What did you say?"

"Shanti bit her lip and said, "Nothing!"

Shyam shook her by her shoulders and asked, "What do you mean that she has got the love of two people?"

"It means Nothing". saying this Shanti freed herself and flopped on the bed.

Suddenly Shyam could see clearly and what he could see was so frightening that his gaze was stuck to the ground and he could lift it.

When Rukma and Shyam returned late in the night from the movie, Shanti went and gave them food that she had prepared. As she kept the food, she observed that Lachman was little displeased. Hiding her awkwardness, Shanti asked, "Was the movie bad?" Lachman irritatingly said, "How can one enjoy the movie when she is crying?"

When Shanti looked at Rukma she saw that she was plaiting her hair fast and perhaps she would burst out like a volcano on a single word. Shanti was so disturbed by own problems that she was not interested in their fight; and she silently went into her own room. As she was going, she heard Rukma telling Lachman, "Was your complaint appreciated? You feel bad if someone cries out of sadness".

Lachman said, "You may cry your entire life. I am tired. If you wish so go and return the food to her".

Shanti quickly walked into her room and went on the cot and lied down as usual. There was a silence in both the rooms and the silence was so dense that it could not break through the morning daily routine. They all were simmering inwardly like burnt sticks.

Lachman held his patience for a couple of days but the merriment of the house did not return. On the third day when Lachman brought a hand-cart and two labourers Shyam had already left for office. When their luggage was being loaded, Shanti stood with her back to them, near the window, and kept biting her dupatta.

After a while, when she turned around and looked at Rukma's room, she nothing except a few pieces of paper. She sat down at the threshold for a long time and tears were flowing from her eyes. At dusk when Shyam returned home tired, the curtain of the middle door was open. He understood that the nest was destroyed!

- Translated by Arun Babani

The End


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