Short Stories >> Bhoori >> Business of Priceless Gems (Amulya Manak jo Vyapar)

Short Stories

Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani

It is said that even a King should bear a daughter but Gopi had two daughters. Her real daughter and a step-daughter. I don't know how the poor lady had brought them up by educating them. They were just a couple of years apart. Today her real daughter was to get engaged. Gopi had covered the plates full of dry fruits and cakes and pastries with a silk handkerchief. Savitri and Saroj, the elder sisters of the groom were expected to come today to see the bride to be. As they entered the door, Gopi jumped up and the silk cover lifted a bit off the plates,. She wanted to show off to the groom's family how prosperous she was. From far she shouted, "Welcome. Welcome. Glad you came. You are so late".

Saroj, who was bulky, threw herself like a sack of sugar, on the chair and breathlessly said, "Don't ask. We had left home quite early but you know the conditions of the city! As soon as a boy lands from abroad, the women go overboard in an attempt to show their daughters".

Savitri too, not wanting to be left behind, said, "Sister, nowadays daughters have become a burden so each family feels that it should be their daughter first".

Savitri had already started humbling the bride's mother but she felt guilty and was thinking, "the woman who has spread so many goodies for us and upon hearing my brother's salary may protest and say that my daughter too earns a few hundreds and she is not a burden on me".

Before the bride's mother could even react, Saroj, seeing the doubt on her face, threw another arrow at her. "Don't take my sister Savitri's remarks to your heart. You have nurtured your daughters lovingly. They are not a burden on you. I've heard that you will be giving your daughter everything".

But she thought to herself. "I don't know what Savitri is going on saying. Nowadays even girls are earning, so why will they be a burden on anybody. I hope the all goes well in this relationship".

Savitri was embarrassed but said, "I was actually talking about my neighbor. As we were leaving our home my neighbor caught me and told that she had called for her niece and that we should first have a look at her".

It seemed as if something fell from Gopi's hands. She felt a pain in her chest. From the time Rukmini was very young she had nurtured a dream of her daughter getting married, her son-in-law coming and celebration around. But today the girl is twenty four and yet there is no proper match for her. Hence the mother was so anxious. Hearing about another girl made her mind restless. She nearly said it, "If you have already seen a girl before coming, then why you come to me have?" But keeping her hand on her chest, to swallow her pain, she said, "Shri Ram!"

Looking at the condition of the bride's mother Saroj felt happy in her heart. She thought, "The woman has got a pain in her chest now. If we had not bluffed about another girl then it would have not been easy to extract a big dowry from her". She instantly made a sweet face and asked, "Why dear, do you have a chest pain?"

The bride's mother recollecting her small-salaried husband's pain, but maintaining an outer composure, said sadly, "I have many joys but yet the doctor tells me to keep my heart happy or I will get a heart disease".

Savitri had brought her daughter along too who was continuously looking at the food plates. Now she was even pointing to the plates and pulling her mother's palu. Gopi got angry. She thought to herself, "you have come to see a girl, then why have you dragged a hungry kitten with you? Here take. Gobble down a three Anna pastry".She took a pastry and handed to the child. Over all this she pampered her face and said, "She is so endearing. Isn't she?" But Minu who had rarely eaten such a thing said in a childish manner, "You are giving it to me for free isn't it? We won't pay you any money". Gopi was seething, thinking that when the family is so pitiable, how can one marry a daughter in that family" To top it she even said, "Quite a clever child. She doesn't like even the mention of spending money". Savitri could handle this taunt. Changing the topic she said, "Sister, call your Rukmini. It's getting late".

Bride's mother called out angrily, "Soni, my dear, bring the tea".

Saroj and Savitri were quiet surprised. They looked at each other and asked "Soni? The match maker had said that the girl's name is Rukmini".

Savitri stared at Saroj as if saying that even though we have bluffed her that we seen another girl before, yet this woman is not ready to show us her daughter. Saroj's face faded. She thought that I had simply pulled a bluff in order to get a bigger dowry out of her. How would I know that this woman is so cunning?

Now it was Gopi's turn to be happy. Looking at the groom's sisters she thought to herself "I won't get my real daughter married to you bankrupt family. I have a grown up step daughter, you may see her if you want". Gopi laughingly said, "Yes, yes, her name is Rukmini but her father calls her Soni out of love. She is actually a piece of gold". But looking at Soni bringing the tray of tea, she thought, "Gold, my foot! She's dark as a snake. Dark inside and ugly outside".

Both the sisters of the groom began inspecting the girl from top to toe as if they had come to buy an earthen vessel. Finally Saroj wide eyed said, "You have had too much milk and given her birth. She is actually a piece of gold". Gopi grew nervous. She thought to herself, "I did not drink milk and give birth but I have had to drink poison to bring her up. But these women did not even take notice of that. They are merely talking that she is a piece of gold. If they have really liked her they better confirm with distribution of some sweets. Then I can be sure that one burden is over".

Taking the tray from the daughter and putting it on the table she pushed the eatables toward them, saying, "You have not even touched anything. Please eat these or the tea will get cold".

Savitri was angry looking at the girl. She thought, "The rat found a piece of turmeric and he said he is a grocer. The girl does not have any features or fair complexion and they say she is a piece of gold? She is wearing such a sari that she looks like a Gujarati.She could have even borrowed a sari from a neighbor". Saroj then said, "She is a nice girl that is why she looks beautiful even in a simple sari".

Gopi said, "Why not. Her father says that his daughter will marry in one sari only. But I tell him that we cannot give away only the daughter. It said if the mother is a hard laborer then the daughter is prosperous. So will parents avoid giving to their daughters?' Gopi had said all this reacting to both their forlorn faces but she thought to herself, "You both are sad, I'll borrow and give you something. If this girl is married off, a big burden is off my head".

Saroj touched Gopi's bangles and said, "It's a nice design you have. You will give a diamond bangle to your daughter apart from usual dowry stuff".

Now Gopi's anger had touched its limits. Within her heart she just cursed them. She thought, "You hungry beggars, why are you eyeing my bangles? You have nothing and consider yourself rich. Now you desire a diamond bangle".But at the same time she covered her bitterness with a smile and said, "My dear this is a business of priceless gems. Whatever the girl's destiny, she will get. Otherwise from where will we get diamonds?" Soni, who was sitting after keeping the tea on the table, was shocked to hear the conversation. Her sale was happening better than the sale of an earthen vessel.

Savitri asked the girl, "My child how far are you educated?"

Soni answered respectfully, "I have passed my Matric".

Saroj did not take kindly to the girl being Matric pass. She made a crooked face. She thought, "If this dumb girl can say she is Matric pass then even my brother is college educated". So she turned to the girl's mother and said, "Our hero too studied two years in college before going abroad. But If this girl is Matric pass then she must be working too?"

Gopi suddenly got up. She said, "Oh No. Not at all. Our ancestors did not do jobs. How can she? Come on have the tea".She was so curt as if she wanted to say "What you know about match-making. You want a working girl and on top of it you need a diamond bangle. I have heard that the boy is not getting any job. Now an earning wife should come and feed him. Just have tea and leave. Don't eat the cake and pastries it you don't want. As it is they are rented".

Saroj and Savitri turned pale. They had just the tea. They were eyeing the eatables in the plates but Gopi did make any attempt to offer to them. How could she offer them? If she did that they would consider it as an agreement to engagement. And how will she satisfy such greedy people? And then it will be rumored that the engagement has been called off. Gopi had had such an experience before.

Suddenly a girl came in rushing and asked, "Soni, where is Rukma?"

Everybody's faces fell. Gopi and her daughter were shaken. Saroj and Savitri left the tea in half and with angry faces got up. Their glances conveyed, "You cheat. You showed us one girl in place of another".

With dry faces they tell Gopi, "We are leaving".

Sheela kept a book on the table and said, "Sorry Soni I am leaving this book. You left early from office today. I came to return your book thinking that you might want to return it to the library".

Sony had gathered herself by now. She got up and led her friend into another room. She left behind a cold sigh which echoed in the room and hit the walls and sizzled like water on burning coal. Gopi sat still on the chair for a long time.

- Translated by Arun Babani

The End


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