Short Stories >> Bhoori >> Defeat (Shikasat)
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
As it is the rainy days are gloomy, and if dark clouds sometimes go far off and pour somewhere else, the atmosphere tends to become deserted. When cool winds mixed with the fragrance of the earth touch the body it raises a strange loneliness in heart, making it restless... At such a time when Sati and Hashu came over, I felt as if I have found some treasure. I embraced both with open arms. After all these two are like my children who have filled my lonely life with colors.
It is actually it is a laughing matter that a young unmarried lady like me has such maternal feelings for grownups like Sati and Hashu! But one has no control over feelings of the heart.
I told Hashu, "If I had wished for something else today I would have got that too. Just look at how the clouds have covered the sky. On such a lonely day I have your company, then what more can I want". Both of them did not reply. I made both of them sit and asked them, "What shall snack shall I make today?"
Hashu frowned and said, "There is no need for any snacks". Looking at their indifference I got confused and for a long time I looked at them strangely. At last I said, "Generally when you come you both are so talkative. Have your ships drowned today?"
Sati got up from the chair and stood by the window. Her sari was swaying in the breeze. Hashu took a deep breath and said, "Okay I am leaving".
I said, "Tell me Hashu, How have you come and why are you going?"
Hashu motioned towards Sati and said, "Ask her".
Sati was looking out of the window as if she wasn't listening to anything. Even when I called out to her she did not reply. I said, "Hashu you may go home. Sati will stay with me tonight".
Hashu made a bitter face and was about to leave when Sati made a sulking face, looked at him and said, "I am also coming".
Hashu stopped, "So your complaint has been accepted?"
Sati continued looking out of the window. I gestured Hashu with my hand to go away. When he left, Sati trembling like a wounded bird came and threw herself in my lap. She said in a miserable way, "Dadi I want death now".
My heart was overwhelmed and I asked laughingly, "So soon?"
"Or what else. If he doesn't respect me then what will I live for?"
"Great! You had said that you will set up a beautiful home and thereby make a small portion of the country prosperous. So the home is prosperous? Now you wish to die?"
Sati held her handkerchief to her eyes and said, "But I should be allowed to make a home prosperous. He thinks that I am spendthrift that I need furniture, curtains, flower vases and plant pots..."
I suddenly felt emotional like a mother at Sati's such tiny desires. I felt like calling her, "dear daughter" but I stopped myself. I just placed my hands on her shoulders. Sati wiped my tears with her sari palu and embraced me and said softly, "How I wish Ammi was alive today".
I served Sati food and then we both went to bed. We kept talking till midnight. On hearing about their daily squabbles I realized that it is neither her fault nor Hashi's fault. The poor things are fond of living a happy life but because of less income they end up blaming each other. I thought to myself that I had refused to get married because of such pains. It is better to remain alone rather than get married with small salaries and blame each other daily. I pitied Sati's ignorance. Very late at night Sati turned and slept, I too tiptoed to my cot and lay down. I remembered the days when Sati came to my house for tuitions. I was quite strong in those days and took a few tuitions in a day. My nephew Hashu had recently entered the teaching profession. He would come every day and bore me. One day Sati suddenly asked me, "Dadi why hasn't your nephew come today?"I was surprised. I wondered why it mattered to this girl if Hashu had not come. And after a few days Hashu asked me the same question, saying, "Dadi, since yesterday that girl has not come to you".
I said, "She has gone to her maternal grandparents in Karachi".
For some days hashu too did not come and on the day he came Sati had returned from Karachi. On that day Hashu was so excited that I felt like laughing. Sati too was listening to him so attentively as if it was some sweet melody. When Hashu turned a bit, I asked Sati, "Do you like my nephew?"
Sati got embarrassed and turned red. Shaking her body she said, "When did I say that? I simply like enthusiastic talks; he keeps saying that one must build the nation. To give one's life for the country is the real way of living. Dadi, tell me the truth. Don't you like what Hashu talks about?"Out of love I replied, "I don't necccessarily like what Hashu speaks but when you both sit and talk like this I like it".
Even when Sati passed her Matric she did not stop coming to me. Once I found Hashu's playfulness near so endearing that after she left I asked him, "Hashu do you like Sati a lot?"
Surprised, he asked, "Don't you like her that you are asking me?"
I don't know but I felt shy. Many years ago I too was liked by many boys like Sati is liked by Hashu. But they were either teachers like Hashu or mere clerks. Therefore I did not give any attention to that liking. But when I told Sati, "Sati you must forget about Hashu" she gave a jerk and asked, "Why Dadi?"
I said, "Sati he is a teacher earning just a few hundred rupees, so you both may not be able to move together in life". Sati laughed, and said, "Dadi, I don't know what you are saying. Can one have a good life only with an officer or businessman or a moneyed person?"
I laughed, "You are naïve. In the world you need money. You will realize this later".
Sati did not say anything but when she was leaving she shyly said, "What is the relation between love and money?"
I burst out laughing. I had seen such principled couples in my life whose lives had become meaningless because of poverty. Sati and Hashu got engaged in a few days. Taking an opportunity I told Hashu, "Look Hashu, your Sati is a stylish girl and you are a hardworking strong young man who is dreaming of changing the whole country, so how will you spend your life with Sati?" Snapping his fingers Hashu said, "Just wait and watch Dadi how I'm going to change her in a short time".
Later when I told Sati, "Girl, Hashu is not the types to make a home. Above everything else he is concerned about service to the country". But Sati swayed and said, "Just wait and watch Dadi, how I'm going to change him. After all the home is also a small portion of the country, Isn't it?" I felt nice looking at this little girl's courage.
After that they both got married. On the wedding night I was awake till late. On that night I was as angry with myself as I have never been before. There was the sound of their laughter and sound of bangles, the fragrance of perfume all around me and I kept thinking restlessly, "I wish I too had, like Hashu and Sati taken courage and settled down with an ordinary salaried person by supporting him good and bad times". But by then I had lost every property of mine like my beauty, face, color of my eyes and playfulness of my body. And today the same Sati and Hashu had come to me after having a fight. It was good that I didn't marry a less salaried person or I would have to repent today. But because Sati had chosen me during her difficult time for some sympathy I felt an emotion of motherliness for this girl. I couldn't find peace on my own cot so I felt like going to sleep with her by embracing her.
But as I got up from my cot, I saw that Sati was not o her bed! I felt lost. It was past midnight. Frogs were croaking outside in the monsoon ponds. It was dark and deserted outside. Thinking where she could have gone on such a dark night made me frightened. I started calling out to her loudly. She came in walking swiftly from the corner of the balcony. She was shivering when she came into the room. There were rain drops on her clothes. A cold breeze was blowing. I put a blanket on her, made her lie down and began running my fingers through her hair. The girl burst out crying. She buried her head in my chest and said, "Dadi this is the first time in three years that we have separated after fighting".
After a while when she was feeling better she said, "But Dadi, what have I asked for? Not a palace or building! Is this life? He is a teacher and believes that he is serving the country. And If I make a beautiful house and make a corner of my country beautiful is that not a service to the nation? Even dogs survive. When we have come into this world as human beings can we deprive ourselves of clothes and dressing up?"
I was aware of Hashu's ideas so I said gently, that there are many human beings in our country who cannot live a good life inspite of giving their sweat and blood. Atleast Hashu is teaching children to create a new and better world so that one day many women like you will be able to make beautiful and fragrant homes".
"By then I would be surely dead" said Sati and her tears fell on my hand. I told myself, what this little girl knows about the philosophy of keeping the future generation alive? I laughingly told her, "Sati it is not your fault. You are still a child!"
"Yeah, he feels that I have grown so big that I should not even ask for such petty things".
I did not answer her but I felt an overwhelming love for her and I put her to sleep in my arms.
Hashu came to my house early in the morning. He looked worn out. He also looked heavy in the heart. I felt a wave of attachment to him. My mother was right that the interest is sweeter than the capitol. Nephews are more lovable than brothers. Sitting beside him, rubbing his hair I told him, "Without you Sati has become lonely. How do you fight with each other?"
"You think I am less lonely? But where has she gone?'Hashu asked so anxiously that I burst out laughing.
"She has gone for a bath. She has not run away".
Hashu felt shy and said, "Sometimes for small things there is a storm and then the rains and the entire household is stuck. It is not Sati's fault. She is not asking for any treasures. The poor girl too desires to set up a beautiful house and thereby making a corner of the country beautiful. But..."
Sati came in the room hearing the last words of Hashu. She had a beautiful smile on her face, like a flower and there was a dance of a dancer in her feet.
Completing Hashu's sentence she said, "But how can complete the dream of making a small of the country beautiful when so many other people of the country cannot fulfill their smallest needs. Is that not?" while saying this she put her clothes to hang on the hook and with a smile she came and sat beside us continuing, "A day will surely come when whatever I have not been able to get the women of the country will get".Towards the last words her smile faded and her lips started quivering. Hashu looked at Sati wide eyed. Sati with tear-filled eyed looked down. Hashu kept looking at her lovingly. This moment was so beautiful and sweet. How I wish I could take the wings of a peacock and carry this moment in the sky and share with world that I have witnessed the unique intimacy between husband and wife.
"Come let us go home". Hashu said.
Sati looked up with wet eyes and a smile on her face and said, "Yes yes..."
I kept looking at this couple with wonder. With great difficulty I could make them wait till breakfast. When they were going down the stairs I overheard them saying, "Fighting with each other doesn't mean that we don't love each other. Two vessels will always bang into each other. So what? But what will Dadi say?"
"What will she say you crazy girl??
And then I heard a faint laughter that I had heard on their wedding night.
I wish I should have learnt this way of drowning the complaints of poverty in the ocean of life like them. I was young then.
The feeling of validation that I felt when they came to me after fighting has now turned into defeat after their leaving.
- Translated by Arun Babani