Short Stories >> Atam Vishwas >> Final decision (Aakhreen Faisalo)
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
It was not an easy job to blow off eighteen candles at once and it was also not possible that after the problem of blowing the candles was sorted out the friends would not clap. The entire atmosphere grew beautiful with the sound of the English radio and the clapping. Sita patted her eighteen-year-old friend's back and said, "You did a wonderful job Suri"
Suri hugged her and kissing her cheek put a piece of cake in her mouth. Rubbing her cheek when Sita looked up she saw Sarla's fiancé looking at Sarla with pure love in his eyes. Sita felt that the control she had over her thirty-three-year emotions had been let lose like the knots of old clothes over a poor woman's youthful body. There were jokes doing the rounds amongst the guests and Sita laughed at each of them the most. But Sarla's widowed mother could see the pain under that laughter which was like the energy at the last breath of a dying human being.
" Sita stay back here tonight" Putli told her happily. Sita's body was oozing with the nectar of love.
"You are tired isn't it Didi?"
"No stupid. I didn't say it with that intention. You did not allow me to get tired at all today. Lucky will be those in whose family you will get married".
"Lucky?" Sita said, looking around at the eatables spread out, the balloons, the paper lanterns and the oil painted shining walls and suddenly while laughing, she burst out crying.
Putli asked, "Are you crying or are you laughing?"
Sita sat beside Putli and put her head on her shoulder. Putli understood this state of her mind. Seeing the clouds dancing in the sky at first the lightning brings a storm and then after dancing a lot when she gets tired then the whole universe becomes sad looking at her state.
Putli kissed her on the forehead and said, "Just watch Sita my daughter how God graces one's destiny. A day shall arrive when your destiny will change in such a way that everyone will be amazed".
Through her tears and smiles Sita was watching Putli who was atleast ten years older to her. There was a question in those tear-filled eyes, "Didi did Bhau get married a second time when his first wife was still alive only so that that action of his should become an obstacle in my path? What kind of justice is this that someone else bears the consequences of another's faults?"
Putli said, "I can hear even that what you are not speaking. But sweetheart I am helpless in front of this senseless world".
Suddenly Sarla came in, dangling her earrings and said, "Mummy, how do they look?"
"Who has gifted you these?"
"Somebody" Sarla said, going red in the face. There was a smile on her dimpled face and dangling her diamond earrings she went and stood before the mirror. Putli deliberately ignored her.
She told Sita, "Is eighteen an age to be married? This one has gone crazy. She simply loves clothes, ornaments and perfumes. The right age is later when the girl considers her husband to be her closest relative and when she forgets all her pains and sorrows after getting his love".
Sita kept looking at Putli with same wise look and smiling. The storm had ceased but the leaves were still moving.
Putli said, "Speaking of destiny, my nephew lost his wife. Now tell me why are the innocent going through such suffering?"
Sita visualised Manu's face. He was a nice man but the misfortune of him being a father of three children.
Sita said, "Didi if I am laughing and talking today, I hope it is not considered as disrespectful?"
"No sweetheart. I have never ever hidden anything from you myself. You are so intelligent that you can reach anybody's heart and their secrets".
Sita put her hand on Putli's hand and pressing it warmly said, "Didi, your Manu has the misfortune of being a father of three children and I have the misfortune of being a sister to a brother with two wives".
Understanding the difference between the two misfortunes, Putli happily caught Sita by the shoulders and said, "Really?"
Putli was so happy that night that only Sarla her daughter could explain. The whole night both mother and daughter kept talking about Sita.
The mother said, "I have never seen such a maternal instinct in any unmarried girl as I have seen in Sita".
The daughter said, "Uncle too will be very happy".
From far away one could hear the decision from the temple - BOL SIYAVAR RAMCHAND KI JAI
In the Praise of Lord Ram.
The mother said, "Our Manu is not much older than Sita. Perhaps a year and a half".
"Had there not been the dowry system in our community then Sita would have not been unmarried till this age".
"Yes, ofcourse. She would have been a mother of atleast four children".
Halting a little she said, "May be not. She is intelligent in every way. Manu's wife was beautiful but she was not quite intelligent. But let us not criticise the dead. The poor thing must be looking for her innocent souls even from heaven".
"Oh, she was not bothered. She was only fair-skinned. There is no doubt that even in heaven she must be sleeping".
Putli started laughing "So you know that after marriage a girl has to look after every responsibility in life.?"
Sarla silently started staring at the ceiling fan.
Even in the dim light Putli felt that her daughter's cheeks had turned red. She laughingly said, "You have relieved me completely. I used to wonder how would you take care of your life, being pampered in such comforts. Perhaps today is a day of good newses.!"
It was not as if Manu had never seen Sita but he said, "I had never seen her with this intention which I am going to do now".
Putli made Sita sit before him and told him, "Now you can see Sita with whatever intention you wish to. I shall go and make some tea".
Sita was a bit nervous but felt a sense of freedom when Putli left them alone. She also felt a bit shy on this thought of freedom.
She wondered that if Putli was so close to her then how was Manu less close than Putli, to her.
Manu said, "The praise I have heard from Bhabhi about you has made me trust you even more after seeing you".
"That is very good". Saying this, Sita hesitated a bit but gained confidence.
"My children will forget everything after getting you. But don't think that I will put the entire burden on you immediately. For the first few months we shall travel to Singapore and Hong Kong".
Sita felt a certain joy arising within her. She imagined herself in silk and nylon saris that swayed and waved a bye-bye from the plane in the sky. But she pinched her mind and stopped her fantasy, "Does anybody ever get pure happiness?"
She placed her hand straight on the table. The fair hand was shining on the black glass. Sita controlled her excitement and thought ‘Atleast praise the beauty of this hand, Manu!'
But Manu sat in deep thought with his hands folded behind his head. He said, "To tell you the truth Sita I am not a greedy man. I may have not got remarried at all but when I think about my children's future, I become hopeless..."
Sita stared at her feet, "I assure you that I shall never ever make your children feel that I am their step-mother..." She couldn't say more than that from embarrassment.
"That is all. I needed just this assurance from you. I do not want anything more than that. I already told you that I am getting married for the sake of my children's happiness".
Manu stood up...Sita had tears in her eyes.
Manu's chair was empty. He had gone to the kitchen to break the good news to Putli. Sitting alone under the bright lights of the big room, Sita imagined her inner being and as she lifted her gaze, she saw the reflection of her round and beautiful face in the mirror. She could hear Moomal's soft whisper saying that she was looking for a person who would destroy the outward illusion of her beauty and reach to the depth of her soul. But alas. She felt like the thirsty bird who pecked at the sky thinking it to be water, but there was no water!
She reflected that when she reached home her brother with two wives advised Sita, "Don't be mad and sacrifice yourself. If there are already three children then you will be obviously entering that house as a maid, not as a bride". At that time Sita had answered him firmly, "Brother when getting married you too had not taken any advice from me. Then why are you advising me now?"
But now Sita realised that the pecking on the glass, in search of food had resulted in pain in the beak.
After spending the whole night in tossing and turning, early morning Sita visited the Shiva temple and went and knocked at Putli's door.
"Didi, I have come to tell you something. Listen Didi, I liked everything about your Manu. But make him agree to one of my conditions too. Since he is getting married for the sake of the children then he should not even touch me till I bring up the little six-month old child and she becomes five years old".
The cup of tea from Putli's hand slipped down, "Leave aside these childish talks".
"This is not childish talk Didi, it is my final decision".
"Final decision? Don't be stupid".
"Didi, my self-respect demands that".
"Woman and self-respect! The world is not worthy of that. We shall have to create another world for that".
"But this final decision of mine should reach him".
"You rest assured. I will tease him a lot. His dizziness, sleeplessness, sleeping on the floor...Is all that for his children? I will teach him a lesson. But for God's sake, keep this final decision of your only up to your words, understood?" Saying this Putli pinched her cheeks lovingly.
- Translated by Arun Babani