Short Stories >> Bhoori >> Bhoori
Bhoori Alias Papad wari - By Smt. Sundri Uttamchandni
"Hey, hey, why have you walked in?"
"Sister, I'm a papad seller..."
"Whoever you may be, don't you understand? Somebody may be changing clothes... Hey are you listening? Why have you frozen at the door?...And you, Why are you looking at this papad seller, you have forgotten to change your clothes!"
"You are Neru, isn't it? Don't you recognize me?"
"You are shocked that I'm selling papads isn't it?"
"Come and sit. I am Neru but I cannot understand whether Bhoori or Ruki"
"Ruki is my elder sister. I am Bhoori. Oh, this chair is comfortable. This is your wife, isn't it?"
Neru nodded in affirmation.
"Are you Okay? The shine of Hyderabad has disappeared from your face,"
"But Bhoori, first you..."
"Come on say.... Why did you stop?"
"Susheela, this is Bhoori about whom I had told you that she was the beautiful woman of our neighborhood".
"Oh, so this is that Bhoori. She was the beauty of your neighborhood?" saying this Susheela stylishly moved her hair away from her face, but she had turned pale.
Bhoori sat on a chair and began looking around the room with interest, especially the photographs. She kept talking thoughtlessly, "Three children were born, had to struggle, given sweat and blood, a human being cannot remain the same always, then traveling in the hot sun... Neru do you have any children?"
But the tears in Neru's eyes were so heavy that he could neither stop them from flowing nor allow them to flow. With a lot of difficulty he said, "But Bhoori tell me how has your face changed so much?"
"First you listen to what she is asking. She is asking you how many children you have. My dear we have three children. You want to sell your papads isn't it?" Susheela couldn't say anything more than that. Her lips were quivering in anger.
"Dhiru my son, where are you? Just bring the weighing scale".
"Have you have left your son in the corridor?" asked Susheela.
"What else can I do? Just look at the fellow's dirty feet. He is roaming around all day. Just keep the scale on the floor. It will be easy for me to weigh".
"But woman, at what price are you giving?"
"Susheela! ‘Woman'?" Neru looked up as if the word ‘woman' had jolted him.
Susheela gave a hard look to her husband as if saying 'if not woman, what else to call her, a 'beauty'?'
Neru swallowed a bitter pill. With a frown he sat on the same that Bhoori had sat before.
Bhoori was busy weighing papads on the floor. She was unconcerned about their talk. "This is one kilo...two...three. Then three and half...there are four papads left...I'm giving these too to you. But after you eat these papads you will wonder whether Bhoori had sold papads or wafers (kheecha) to you!"
"First you tell me the price"
"I sell for eleven annas ...I won't charge you more. I barely save a few pennies".
"Woman, don't tell lies. How do you bring three children on few pennies?"
"No sister, God bless my husband. He gives me a few rupees every day".
"Only a few rupees?"
Neru asked, "What does your husband do Bhoori?"
Previously when we were in Baroda, he had a small stall selling clothes. Now he makes bheedis. From this he earns just enough. So I do the rounds of Colaba, Peddar Road, Dadar and sell around thirty kilos of papads and earn a few rupees, we are having a good life. Look at this boy. Why are you eating an uncooked papad? The vagabond has appeared after two days Neru".
"Woman, where had he gone?" Sheela asked dryly.
"He says he was at Dadar station".
"What did he eat?"
"Hats off to you women. If our children go about here and there, we are almost dead. But look at the boy. What have you done to him! How good looking he is...his lips are shining...what nice brown eyes! But no cleanliness no bath, there is a layer on his body. Just see our children when they return from the garden, how clean and nice they look".
"Sister, ofcourse they will be clean and nice. If I sit at home I too will look after my children and keep them clean. I somehow manage household work and rush for my rounds, but even then I drop my two girls to school. This fellow is not interested in studying. He says, "I'll come with you and I too shall earn". The other day when I refused him, he simply ran away. But tomorrow I shall get him punished from his school master and get him to go back to school".
"It is better that one doesn't step out of home. You are anyway earning just a few rupees, not lakhs".
"Even these few rupees are good for us. Atleast we are not dependent on anyone".
"Good enough?! Woman I find my husband's salary of three hundred rupees too not sufficient!" Susheela said with so much style that she was sure Bhoori must be envying her. But Bhoori did not react as if for her these three hundred rupees were same as her few rupees.
"Ok sister, these are three and half kilos papads. Tell me if I can get you some more tomorrow".
"What will I do tomorrow? Wait for a few days and come. Here is your money".
"Ok Neru...Oh Dhiru come on, pick up the scales, it's already evening".
"You better change. You have been sitting in your pants and banian itself".
"Oh, I just forgot to even change my clothes. But why are you so angry like this?"
"Ok, I am angry. But I'm sure your heart must be happy, isn't it?"
"It is so late in the night. You are still awake".
"What is happened to you today?"
"Tell me the truth. Look at me. You are thinking of Bhoori isn't it?"
"I was really thinking of Bhoori, but why are you so restless?"
"I understood. What are you thinking about Bhoori...?"
"What will you understand?"
"If you don't make me understand, how will I understand? I'm such a fool to ask. Okay, don't tell me. I'm off to sleep". Susheela turned and went off to sleep.
"Hey, just listen. What did you understand?"
"Leave me alone. Bhoori has impressed you a lot, isn't it?"
"Oh, have you gone crazy?"
"Yes, I am crazy. You are looking at me so strangely as if you don't understand what I am saying. I've always said that one must never marry a poet. His soul is always in search of beautiful women".
"There is surely something that has upset you today; otherwise even a child can say that at this moment you look more beautiful than Bhoori".
"Now listen, although one's own wife may be very beautiful but she has no value at home".
"Now don't talk rubbish. Why poets? Every human being is a lover of beauty. Would you not appreciate beautiful flowers in a garden? There is nature's creativity in beauty".
"But what beauty was there in Bhoori? I even saw that while she was leaving you were happy at her walk from behind." "Susheela!"
"Yes, yes, I'm saying the truth. Why are you getting angry...?"
"You crazy lady, she is somebody's wife, A mother of three children!"
"So? When she was unmarried you had agreed to marry her at the behest of your grandmother. It was your father who made you understand to get an educated wife since you were educated too. Now you are repenting".
"Am I repenting? Have you lost your mind? I was doing FA at that time and Baba had said a sensible thing".
"If it was a sensible advice then today why were you staring at this poor Bhoori? Above all, you almost cried looking at Bhoori today. You think I did not see your tears. Oh a wife can read her husband's face instantly".
"Now go away you crazy woman. That is why I said that you will not understand".
"Again you come to the same point. Help me understand".
"Susheela, had you seen the same Bhoori eight years ago you too would have cried seeing Bhoori today. Her beautiful plump face is a now a skeleton. Her pink cheeks and transparent skin have now dried up. Her twinkling eyes had such a light but today their shine has faded by poverty. Her milky white complexion has become tanned roaming under the hot sun. When I see a young sapling withering away under the hardships of poverty, my heart bleeds".
"Why should the heart bleed?"
"Sushi, when our little Saroj was inflicted by chicken pox that left some marks on her, you had cried so much. And why had you cried?"
"Even today, thinking of her withered beauty I cry so much".
"Sushi just as beautiful houses, beautiful roads, gardens, schools are a pride of the community so also beautiful faces are a pride for a nation. Then how will the heart not bleed on seeing Bhoori withering away even before blooming?'
"I cannot understand how you can feel sad even for strangers".
"Since when did my Sindhis become strangers Sushi? We left our beautiful, mirrored homes, gardens, farm houses, bridges and we brought the brightness on our faces and if even that brightness fades away due to hunger isn't that cruel?..."
"Why did you become silent...? But tell me when Bhoori was leaving, why were you looking so happy?"
"I saw another aspect of beauty in Bhoori at that time".
"What new beauty has now come upon Bhoori? You poets confuse simple folk like me".
"My dear Sushi, if you are attentive you too will see this beauty in Bhoori. A new, independent and hardworking Bhoori has been born in place of the old, immature Bhoori. Did you notice her clarity and carefreeness?"
"How confidently she came and sat on the chair".
"That is her real beauty which impressed me. He spirit does not bend before anyone and why should she even bend? For her earning two rupees or three hundred rupees is the same thing. She is not taking any favors from others. She is working hard and asking her dues in return. She has aged faster due to slogging but she doesn't mind it. She has no complaints about her husband earning less or more".
"In that case too do not have any complaints against you".
"You are quite vain Ask your inner self. You have a list of complaints...'You are not sending children to a convent school...You are not coming shopping...You are not taking me to Kashmir...You are not getting me a radio...You are not fixing a fan....You do not take me to my maternal home often...How do I go alone...And on the other hand is Bhoori who courageously and alone goes around all the roads of the city. Her self- respect surrounds her. Walking alone on this vast earth under the vast sky, without any care, has made her heart so vast and strong that she is not disturbed by any false prestige. She is lost in action (Karma) and hard work like a Queen...Oh you are crying?" Neru clasped his wife's face in both his hands.
- Translated by Prof. M. U. Malkani