Short Stories >> Bhoori >> As if Someone died (Jan koee maari vyo Aahe)

Short Stories

Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani

After migrating from Sindh when Gangaram and Sobhraj brought their wives and settled them in camps, the sisters-in-laws would both protest together on everything. They said, "We can't stay here. There are such big rats that frighten even the cats away! Noise of the tap! Such filthy toilets. How can one live in such a hell?" The brothers too would face these protests united, saying, "should we look at business or think about bringing back your good days of Sindh..."

In Sindh these two sisters-in-laws lived separately, but here as they stayed together, they became good friends. They exchanged what they cooked. They rolled papads together and even reserved a place for each other at the water tap. They went shopping together.

The biggest advantage was that they helped each other in every way. Since they had no relatives, they were each other's sister as well as mother. The children were used to living in to each other's house turn by turn. They were wild kids, hitting each, breaking toys etc, but the sisters-in-laws never thought of fighting.

Lajwanti laughingly told her brother-in-law, "Brother, your kid Ishwar is so much like Baba".

Sobhraj too picked up Lajwanti's little daughter saying, "And look at this little Ratna, she is so much like Amma". Adding to that his wife Rani said, "Oh yes, Babhi, this is exactly Ammi who has returned back".

Lajwanti said rather proudly, "Yes the girl's chiseled features are same as Ammi's and same milky complexion too, like Ammi". Gangaram looked at his daughter as if he was seeing her for the first time.

Time passed off so fast. Ishwar and Ratna grew quickly. At the shop Ishwar was very close to his uncle Gangaram than his father and they got along very well. At home young Ratna respected her aunt very much. When aunt was pregnant, Ratna took charge of the house. Ishwar also would also come and eat at Ratna's kitchen and talk to her about everything in the world. There was never a lack of film gossip. Ratna went for a film in the camp itself with her father or aunt, but Ishwar had been to the grand theatres of Bombay. One day Ratna told him, "You never thought of showing me Apsara Theater!" Ishwar pulled her ear and said, "No Baba, how can I take you? You have become tall as Saira Banu. Dada will be angry if he comes to know".

"And you also look like Dilip Kumar.As if Dada tells you anything. Why don't you say that your pockets are empty?"

"Just shut up. I have opened an account in the bank now".

"I am going to quarrel with Baba now".

"Listen. I will take you on condition that no one in the house knows about it".

Who had time in the house to keep a watch? Ishwar made an excuse of going for a picnic with friends and Ratna made an excuse of a movie with friends. When Lajwanti refused, Ratna threatened to give up eating. Lajwanti spat fire and said, "What type of girls are you? Do you have values, any schooling, any service or prayer? You are living just to eat, and roam about!"

"The whole day I'm looking after your children and I left my schooling too because of that. What more can I do?" tears rolled down Ratna's cheeks while saying this.

"Okay you may go you bigmouth!"

Ratna quickly finished all household work. Lajwanti told her, "You girl, walk slowly. You are walking with such a gait as if you are going to war".

Ratna went away laughing.

At night Lajwanti came to share her feelings with her sister-in-law saying, "Today's children just want to enjoy life and have fun, not concerned that the parents are in tension".

Rani said, "One cannot argue with them. If we refuse they retaliate..."

Ratna got used to it and every other Sunday she and Ishwar would make a plan. Bombay is huge city and nobody known would meet or recognize them and inform their family. They both got used to anew found freedom.

One day Ratna and Ishwar were returning from a movie, in a bus. Ratna asked, "Why do the romantic pair in films always run around in gardens?"

Ishwar said, "If we do it ourselves we will know".

Ratna's cheeks turned red. She thought, "Ishwar is a cousin, like my brother. What's the harm in going around with him?" On another occasion, during the monsoon, in Kamla Nehru Park, Ishwar went away in the boot-house; Ratna felt that without Ishwar the whole park looked deserted. And above that, when a mischievous guy came and stood beside her, she felt her heartbeat grow. She quickly went into the boot-house and started calling, "Ishwar. Ishwar".When she reached up, Ishwar welcomed her with open arms. Ratna took his hand and placed it on her chest saying, "Look how my heart is beating. Why did you leave me down?" Hearing footsteps coming up, they separated and came down hand in hand.

The rain had recently stopped, so there was muck around in the park. Ratna felt her lips quivering and a strange movement in her body. She said, "Today I feel like running".

"Try and run. The rain has ruined everything".

"But because of the rain itself the park is empty". she realized she said something wrong and she bit her lip...and Ishwar caught her hand and said, "Don't make your poor lips more red!"

For a moment they both felt that they were slipping but it was impossible to save themselves from the slippery on which they had placed their feet...

When Lajwanti saw the closeness between Ishwar and Ratna at home, like a smart rabbit she became alert and looking for clues. When pulling the sugar cane from Ratna, Ishwar bit her arm or when Ratna hit Ishwar while snatching photographs from him, made Lajwanti very angry and she said, "You are no longer children".But who would listen to her. One night she even argued with Gangaram saying, "Your daughter is growing up so fast, are you concerned about her?" Gangaram too was irritated, "These are matters of the women folk. Do I have to worry?"

"You have not given any authority to your wives. As if I have to get her marriage expenses from elsewhere!"

"Yeah, you are so poor and bankrupt. Or as if the poor don't marry at all".

Considering this argument as futile they both turned their faces away.

Finally a day arrived when the brothers were angry at each other. Lajwanti and Rani not only stopped exchanging food but they also stopped communicating with each other.

Ishwar and Ratna passed by each other with eyes lowered as if it was a crime to look at each other. Young children would imitate them. They would laugh secretly when they were passing by, showing their little finger. Ratna would take her sisters inside and beat them. Ishwar would hit his brothers too.

Now the sisters-in-laws would not take long to abuse each other on account of their children's fights. Even the neighbors were shocked at their behavior.

But nobody could see both the sisters-in-law's pain in the night. In the middle of the night Lajwanti would wake up her husband and say, "what calamity has happened? I feel a fire under each step of mine and when that bloody Ishwar passes by I feel like piercing his eyes..."

And Rani would wake up Sobhraj and tell him, "My heart is burning. I cannot bear Lajwanti's gaze. Her daughter too is of bad character".

"But what happened to our Ishwar? He is so grown up. Didn't he consider the cousin as his sister?"

"God knows how he lost his mind. He was not like that...!"

"This country is basically unfortunate. Just look around...the atmosphere. What lawlessness is around".

"But we also were blind no..."

In this way, every night both the adjoining homes went through misery. Every night brought in disturbance in both the families. Under too much pressure made Gangaram pick up a stick. Ratna's tender body became black and blue. Ishwar, lying under his blanket painfully heard Ratna's screams. Sobhraj too heard them while pacing about in the barrack. After that the voices of Lajwanti's sobbing and Gangaram beating his head were heard. One night Ratna was wailing, "Ammi I can't take this poison anymore. It is better that you tie my legs and throw me in the river".

For many days there was a death like silence looming over both the barracks. Suddenly one day Sobhraj brought Ishwar and Ratna in front of Rani saying, "Bless them. Now they are your son and daughter-in-law. I have got them civil married". Rani put her hand on her forehead. When Ratna bent to touch her mother-in-law's (Aunt) feet, she continued sitting there. She was sobbing bitterly Ishwar too was looking downwards.

"Get up dear. May you always remain happy". Saying this Rani's tears rolled down her cheeks. The children were watching all this in surprise.

When Gangaram and Lajwanti saw Sobhraj coming towards them with Ishwar and Ratna, they did not know where to look. Sobhraj said, "Babhi bless both of them. Think that your Ratna is dead I have found this girl on the railway tracks".

"It is better not to have any children rather than such". saying this Gangaram went away.

Wiping her tears from her face Lajwanti said, "Brother we are indebted to you but now we cannot live here anymore".

Sobhraj had no words to reply to her. He felt even his own heart breaking...

Early morning Ishwar and ratna overheard children saying, "Oh God. What kind of a marriage is this? It seems as if someone has died".

- Translated by Arun Babani

The End


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