Short Stories >> Bandhan >> Bird's beauty in its own flock (Pakhi soonhbo pahinje)
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
Duru had never imagined that Shamee would get so excited. Although it was just two months since she shifted into the house next to Shamee’s, she had always thought of Shamee as a serious person. At first, Duru would call her ‘auntie’ but later because Shamee was annoyed at that, she began calling her ‘Dadi.’ She naturally had respect and love for Dadi and to add to that when Dadi’s nephew returned to India to get married, and stayed at Dadi’s house, then Duru acted as Shamee’s younger sister.
Together they went to see and approve a bride, together they went shopping…But the way Dadi began singing and dancing during the wedding functions was a shocker for Duru. When Duru saw Shamee dancing to her heart’s content, she experienced a wave of contentment within herself too. She had also left her house in search of happiness…!
During the Laada -
To lai Sipahi bhi guraya?
Vazir sadayaan. Raja khe manaya.
Chao ta sueereen…,
(Tell me, what can I do for you.
My beautiful queen.
Call for soldiers?
Please the king?
Call for the Commander in chief?)
While singing, the women looked at Duru and she shrunk into herself. The women began teasing her even more. They were teasing her nonchalantly. Duru had never seen such a party. She experienced a rush of blood to her head out of excitement and her head became heavy. She covered her face with her hands and the laughter and merriment spread through the whole party.
Beating the dholak (Drum) with a steel spoon Shamee began singing-.
Papiyo Bole tana mein...
Wedding songs played in the background.
For Duru, the atmosphere was filled with seriousness and pain. She felt like she was rocking on a boat in the middle of the ocean. She could not sing the wedding songs but loved them so much that she felt like taking a pen and paper and writing them. But she did not know how to write in Sindhi. The drums stopped beating and the voice of the singer sounded more melodious. One after the other, they sang many melodious and sad wedding songs.
Sajan vanyee to pardes
Ta mero thee ghumjaee
Dhobi dhotta kapda moor na paahenjai
Hardum yaad kanjhaa ta patangari athai hinha des mein.
My beloved, if you are going abroad
Go about in dirty clothes.
Do not wear laundered clothes.
Always remember that your beloved is waiting in this place.
Listening to this sorrowful song, a young girl couldn’t control herself and she went out to hide her tears. Shamee said, “Enough of these songs. These poor things are separated from their husbands and are feeling the pain. Even I feel like crying.”
Everyone burst out laughing.
Duru looked within herself and realised that her heart too was heavy. Shamee began some light hearted chatter “My dear one is coming from abroad.”
Someone asked, “Have you arranged for a bed for the beloved one?” Another replied, “Ofcourse, I have called for the best Jute bed from Holland.”
Duru asked, “What is Jute?” in a such a soft voice that Shamee shook her shoulders and hands replied, “Keep quiet. I have ordered one made of Dunlop from Sindh Furnitures,”
The first lady asked, “First of all, tell me from which country have you got the dress from?”
Ghot maa to ghurey.
Every now and then
Chitun desires a mother-in-law
The boy’s mother was overseas and Shamee had to stand in for her role and so everybody was teasing Shamee.
They said, “The bride’s father has got dresses stitched for you. He has got ornaments made for you by the jeweller at Sukkur…He’s bought platefuls of sweets from Chandu Halwai…Tell us groom’s mother, are you going or not?”
Shamee covered her face and said, “No. No” but the women kept teasing her by asking her to look for things to buy from Calcutta, Bangalore, Ajmer, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Pune, Gandhi Dham, Sindhunagar and Sindh. But Shamee, like a proud elephant, merely nodded her head. Finally, someone told her, “He has organised a helicopter for your ride.”
Another said, “He is taking you to the Moon.”
But Shamee was very adamant. She acted like a newly-wedded bride and kept nodding her head.
An elderly lady hit her and said, “You unfortunate one, what is wrong with you? You will enjoy the occasion.”
But Shamee kept shaking her head.
Finally, one lady clapped her hands and said, “The bride’s father has kept the bride safe for your son.” Then Shamee uncovered her face and stood up. Putting her hand on her waist she said, “Get the children out of here. I am going to my son’s in-laws.”
Duru was watching all this strange drama with interest and enjoyment. Suddenly a young- and healthy-looking lady with a band on her head began dancing with a stick in her hand. While doing so she would keep asking, “Am I looking old?” Everyone collectively would answer, “Yes. Yes, you are old.”
Duru was rolling with laughter and her face lit up. She couldn’t take her eyes off that young lady’s face, who too appeared quite an expert at dancing. Suddenly, as she started playing Hoja Malo, everyone - young and old began dancing, clapping and enjoying. Duru too could not stop herself from that.
When Ratan returned from office in the evening and did not find Duru at home, he understood that she must in the neighbourhood from where the sounds of song and dance were heard. Today, he got up to prepare his own tea. Duru was Ratan’s second wife; his first wife had died quite early on. She had left no children either, and that is why Ratan took utmost care of the young and tender Duru. But in spite of that Duru was not happy. One day, her face had turned so pale that in her suffering she shouted, “Get me out of this flat, otherwise this loneliness will devour me.” Ratan asked, “Why are you feeling lonely when I am with you and there are others in the neighbourhood?”
Duru said, “Are you tied to me the whole day? And are their houses actual houses or prison cells of Bombay? These women from other communities think no end of themselves. They are neither friendly, nor courteous - they are only busy with themselves!”
Ratan understood what Duru desired. After a couple of weeks of struggling with relatives and agents he found a rental house in a Sindhi colony. Duru liked the house too but she expressed her doubts, “Look, I have lived abroad where there were hardly any Sindhi women. I wonder how I will cope in this Sindhi neighbourhood.”
Ratan encouraged her and said, “Don’t be scared, at least Sindhis are our own people.”
And when Duru actually took to the neighbourhood then Ratan told her, “It is a fact, whether a queen or a slave, a bird always looks good with its own flock.”
When Duru returned with the sounds of the drums and the songs behind her, she saw Ratan making his own tea. She laughed and said, “Why didn’t you call me? I had not gone far away.” “Oh my queen, finally you have found a Sindhi group that has appealed to you. How could I disturb you?”
Duru laughed and said, “These Sindhi women organised a great party. They really are full of life. They make small things larger than life as well.”
Ratan said, “Don’t underestimate the Sindhis. The Sindhi mind is a pure mind of Mohenjo-Daro. It is unlike the plastic brain of today.”
“I never liked Sindhis before.” She said.
“You have never lived with Sindhis. You went to an English medium school and learned to dance in English too. Thankfully you can at least speak Sindhi.”
“While living abroad, it was necessary to know how to speak in Sindhi and I’m grateful for that. Otherwise I would have felt so lonely and like a stranger in this Sindhi neighbourhood.”
“It seems that you have been influenced by the group of the Sindhi ladies.” he said, smiling mischievously.
Duru’s looked even more beautiful after returning from the wedding party. She had come in high spirits. She took her husband’s hand and putting it on her cheeks said, “Just see how hot my cheeks are…Allah! How the Sindhi ladies abuse!”
Ratan laughed and said, “Abuses are common during weddings in all communities. Abuses hurled with love are actually an expression of emotion and intimacy.”
Duru did a dance step, then stylishly turned around and said, “Yes. You will of course say that.”
There was mischief in her eyes.
“So, is this some sort of dance that you have learned?” Ratan was really happy seeing the blush on her cheeks.
- Translated by Arun Babani