Short Stories >> Bond
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
Swami, I don’t know what obligations bind me because all bonds have been broken. I thought that that stormy night, which uprooted so many trees and destroyed my entire heart was the last night. I never imagined that just a year later, the same stormy night would arrive in your life as well.
After reading the letter yesterday, I feel like whatever was trapped on the surface of my heart has sunk within it, into a sort of soft soil. It feels like there’s been a soft drizzle on that soil from which rises a light fragrance. I hope there’s more rain - that there’s so much rain that all that this body is made of, drowns in it. But this body which was steeped in old values and is now bound to the new ideas that your friend Gopi has tied me with, no one can shake it.
Do you know what he said when he first came to my parents’ house? “Roop, do you wish to live or die?”
I was trying to understand whether the right for such familiarity had come to him from you or was it self created..I was still trying to understand that when he laughed and said, “You can’t call yourself a smart, intelligent woman just because you are frowning like that.”
“Arre, when did I tell you that I am a smart person? If I was a smart person, I would not have been abandoned by my husband like this…”
Swami, I couldn’t say anything else. I tried my best to stop my tears from flowing but the tears were stubborn just like you; they came flowing down my cheeks.
I don’t whether Gopi has a sensitive heart or whether every man is this affected by an unknown woman’s plight. But in that moment, Gopi rubbed his face so hard with a handkerchief that as I lifted my eyes, I could see his face red like the sun and I felt so ashamed. I wish I could find the same empathy from you.
Gopi said, “There is a vacancy for a couple of clerks in an office.”
I started laughing but with a voice that sounded like broken bangles I said, “Why do I need a job? For whom? A woman who has been abandoned by her husband does not deserve to live. And especially if she has destroyed her own home and come away.”
“Anyway” he took a deep breath, “these are personal problems between a husband and a wife. I don’t wish to interfere. Please accept the job so that I can put in a request on your behalf.”
Within a couple of moments Gopi had created such a distance between us. It took him a moment to travel from being familiar to being formal. Do you remember our love story that started before marriage? You told me, “Address me in an informal way.” On that day, we were standing near the mountains of Hirabad, near the graves of the Mirs and thinking about the people buried there and their love stories. I said, “It took you six months of meeting me to address me in an informal manner, so at least give me six years to do so.” But it took so long because it was a step towards informality. Yes, to step forward is more difficult than to step backwards. Otherwise how could you have so easily stepped back from the ladder of love that had taken you so many years to climb and you insisted on going to Saroj? On that stormy night, even after seeing my plight, you were neither able to feel sympathy nor any mercy for me. Those few moments were enough to climb down every step of that ladder of our love.
Arre, what have I written? I wanted to write about my life after separating from you. I don’t know how I began writing about the past. But nowadays, these stories from the past have become my only wealth which like a miser’s treasure, I look at repeatedly in lonely, dark hours of the night. I was talking about Gopi. He got me a job but I was so hesitant to go before so many people. However, after getting my first salary I realized that even though the water of the Ganga is freezing cold, once you take a dip in it, it frees you of all your sin. I was released from the bond of taking money from you.
Now I began breaking one more bondage. I was living in my mother’s house, going through the pain of separation and abandonment. Every night, I could only think of the fact that I am lesser than Saroj, less beautiful than her. That was the reason why my Swami left me like a living corpse and went to Saroj. I started dressing up and doing my hair just like Saroj, even then the gap could not be filled. I don’t know what all was broken inside me that could not be fixed. The past would whisper into my ear like a snake, “You had no right to stop your husband from going to another woman. The only authority over one’s husband is the thread of love. When that thread was broken, why did you have to leave the good and run behind the useless? Also, why should he love you? What is so great about your face?”
But why didn’t the mirror give any such testimony? I did not understand. When I saw every night that in your mind, you are with Saroj, I thought to myself that there was no point in trying to capture a bird that had already flown away. And that stormy night when you were hellbent on attending Saroj’s birthday party and left - what a night it was! I know I did not stop you but do someone’s tears and predicament mean nothing to you? After you left, every gust of the wind kept whispering in my ear, “The bond of marriage are loose, very loose.” My mind asked, “Then why are we asked to take the four rounds at the wedding? Why are we made to sign on registers? Why are people invited to witness these loose knots being tied?”
A fire erupted within me and I pleaded with that fire to burn my house and everything I own but nothing happened. Even after shedding buckets of tears the fire did not cool down. My sleep was disturbed - my only friend which consoled me in my nights of loneliness also abandoned me. On the next day, I fought with you like a wild lioness. I wish you had known the fire of separation from a beloved! Then you would have thrown all of the water on earth on me or perhaps you would have cooled me down with the soothing, tender gaze of your eyes.
But at that time you heart was full - not just full, it was overflowing. It had the support of Saroj’s heart. You did not realize how a broken heart becomes a broken lamp. You screamed, “Who are you to separate me from my friends? Go away from my sight. I don’t want to see your face.” Yes, you spoke such harsh words to the same Roop whose separation would wound you like a sword in the night and what light could I find from the darkness of my heart? Slowly, I climbed down the stairs. I don’t know where my feet led me. When I came to my senses, I found myself at the beach. The waves were eager to take me in their bosom. When a human being cannot contain another human being then nature comes to his rescue. But my education had prevented me from considering that as my support. Nature only knows how to make a person helpless, but only a human can support another human, and offer him solace during a crisis. I realized this quite late or should I say, I already knew it which is why I asked for your support? But I realized this at a personal level only when while living at my mother’s place, Gopi felt that despite getting me a job, he had not seen me laugh from the heart. One day he told me sadly, “There is not much distance between our offices then why don’t you come to my office once in a while?”
I don’t know what prompted me to accept his wish; maybe I had a desire to take revenge from you or perhaps to have a glimpse of you. My heart was beating fast the first time I came to your office. Thank God that Gopi’s desk was far away from your desk. I wore a new dress every day and walked through your department with Gopi. In the beginning, I sensed your indifferent gaze, but gradually I experienced that that gaze was filled with jealousy. One day your gaze felt like a wounded and broken bird!
While having tea Gopi asked, “Why are you so hesitant today..? But this hesitation on your face looks beautiful - like a water bubble under the rays of the Sun, which has all the colors of the rainbow.”
I looked up and said, “Gopi, how can I thank you? I was under the impression that I am not beautiful, not interesting and I didn’t realize when you got me out of this misunderstanding. You praised my looks. You liked my fingers on the typewriter so much that you would have kissed them if you could. But you are an idol worthy of worship for me. You have lifted my soul from the valleys of pain and put me like a torch on the peak of a mountain…you have done this great job.”
He smilingly said, “Do you know, I have even taken permission from your husband to marry you…”
“He may consider the bonds of marriage to be loose but not me. My love for you is of the soul. Is that not enough?”
Even though I was aware of the emptiness and futility of such words yet I uttered them. You too had said the same words for Saroj one day –“can’t one have a relationship of the soul after marriage with another girl?”
Gopi is more level headed than that. He said, “Under these circumstances, I won’t give any importance to relationship of the soul. It is a mistake to separate the soul and body. It is cheating, which is enough to mislead people, and I hate cheating.”
Saying “I’ll think about it,” I came back to your office that day after having tea. My eyes had not really deceived me. I felt your gaze to be that of a wounded bird. What could I do at that time? I was passing by with tears in my eyes and pain in my heart, when I suddenly heard a voice from your section, “Kishore is very unfortunate!” I was shocked to hear your name and I dropped my kerchief. While I bent down to pick it up, I heard another laughing voice, “Many had misunderstood the friendship of Saroj…Her wedding card must have disappointed quite a few…” It was as if somebody had freed me from prison. I felt like running back. But a woman always avoids open expression of love. And why not? Men always dislike an open expression of love from women.
I came back to my office and was thinking that a man is not satisfied only by friendship. I thought to myself, “If we get together again, then I shall allow you to freely mix with all my friends…”
And I received your letter in the evening. I don’t know what I’m going through; old songs are playing in heart! You too have gone through a stormy night like me. Your heart too has gone through turmoil. I am sad about that. But the words, “Roop, we will never be separated again” have made me dance. “What I considered as bondage was actually love…was liberty.” These words of yours have freed me from so much suffering, I cannot tell you. I was unable to sleep so I have just written my past memories on paper…Yes, we shall never separate again.
Only God knows how the vows of marriage became so loose on a stormy night. There is no less of a storm after receiving your letter either. But who knows whether the oil in this lamp will last till dawn. The disturbance on the night of our separation is nothing in front of today’s restlessness. I know that you too will be disturbed all night opening and closing windows, standing in the balcony, going through books and what not. But with the first rays of the morning, you will receive this letter from the milkman. It will be a great time when you arrive. That moment! That moment, I just cannot wait! It will be more real, more beautiful than the golden dawn!