Short Stories >> Atam Vishwas >> From Divorce to Divorce (Taalaq khan Taalaq Taeen)
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
"Dhanu. Dhanu. What is this? What is this..." Saying this, Girdhari caught hold of Dhanu's plait and turned her face towards where is hand was pointing.
Dhanu said, "Leave me you rascal. Why are you pulling my plait?"
"I am asking you why have you sent Ratni and Shivam up to the attic?"
"Ratni told me that she wanted to talk something to Shivam alone".
"So, if an Apsara/Fairy will tell you that she wishes to talk to a ghost, will you open the attic for them?"
"Are you realising what you are talking? First of all, have you realised what have you done? Shivam is your friend, isn't it?"
"If he was my true friend then why did he agree to talk to Ratni?"
"You mean to say that he should have gone around with a 'No-Vacancy' board around him?"
"Leave me alone Girdhari. I am already quite upset".
"After destroying the house, you are now upset? You are really too much, my mother, you are too much!"
"I will hit you, you rascal if once more you call me 'mother'. I will hit you thirty times with slippers on your bald head".
"Dhanu you did something good, but what is 'grace' you did not learn".
Dhanu pulled at her own hair and said, "Rascal, what should I do, beat myself? What grace of mine will work? Shivam has told me that I am four years older than him, even after that what can I do? Should I tie him to myself?"
"Arey, don't listen to that scoundrel. Why are you sacrificing that delicate doll, wrapped in velvet, on him?"
"Let it be, you crazy fellow. The doll, on her own, has found a male-doll for herself. What can I do then?"
"Don't say 'male-doll'. Say she has found an idiot".
"Girdhari, you are too much. On one hand you are asking me not to leave him and on the other hand you consider Shivam an idiot for Ratni".
"Arey, Dhanu, you are crazy. Ratni is Ratni. She is not Dhanu".
"Yes, I know. Ratni is a doll for you and Dhanu is an idiot of a girl, after all, I am your sister".
"Oh God! How do I make you understand?"
After a week Girdhari noticed that Ratni was crying in his sister Dhanu's lap. He did not say anything then, but on returning from college, he went straight into Dhanu's room. He said, "Tell me, why was Ratni crying today?"
Dhanu said wide-eyed, "Oh, this is a strange Mahabharat Baba.Before even the bells have started ringing, the war has already started".
"What do you mean?"
"Shivam has told her that they will have a civil marriage so that, if they do not get along then they can divorce each other too".
"Yes. That is a good thing".
"Girdhari, you are crazy. Just think what kind of a girl she is. She is very traditional, from a totally old-fashioned family".
"What are you saying Dhanu? A girl who has chosen her own husband..."
"Arey, you will not understand. The girl did not go out searching for a husband. She has read some article of his in which Shivam had written that boys from the new generation should consider the girls as equal to them and not put any restrictions on their progress, like older generation men".
"Oh. It is because of this that this fair lady has gone to Shivam's door? I am surprised at this. What opportunity does this velvet doll require to progress?"
"Arey Baba, she is fond of singing".
"Okay. But in Shivam's temple she will have to swing, not sing".
"Girdhari you only have to detest somebody! Then you just laugh at everything about him. You yourself have seen Shivam singing on the streets".
'Leave it Dhanu. You call that singing? Call it shouting, blasting. Call it slogan-shouting. But please don't label it as singing".
"Enough. Enough. You will obviously say that. Shall I tell you something interesting?
"When I told Ratni that Shivam sings in the bazaars and streets, she said it is very good. If Tansen goes and sings in the poor colonies, then one cannot help but appreciate his large-heartedness".
"What does it mean? Has the water risen so high?
"I have already told you that Ratni's nature is such that she can see only positive things in another. She doesn't have any talent to see vices in someone".
Girdhari began thinking that either Ratni is stupid or Dhanu has deliberately painted her like this out of envy. Looking at Ratni's present condition, he felt that his first thought about her is more appropriate because civil marriage is truly liberating for a woman, and a girl who doesn't understand that is really stupid.
"Anyway, whatever happened is good". Saying this Girdhari got up, dusting his hands.
"What is good? She has only been crying since yesterday. She is saying that she is like a fish that has a bait stuck in its throat. How can she think of divorcing a person whom she loves?"
"Your friend is crazy. Really crazy! Why just Shivam? Any man in the world would love a fish like Ratni".
Next day when Ratni came to Dhanu with swollen eyes, Dhanu immediately told her what her brother had said, especially the last sentence-Why Shivam? Any man would love a girl like Ratni.Ratni was comforted by that sentence but still she said, "Dhanu Didi, you please convince Shivam that the divorce- marriage..." and she started sobbing.
Many years passed after Shivam and Ratni's marriage. Dhanu too had married a man living abroad. One day Dhanu was giving away awards to drama artists at a prestigious function when her gaze fell on an elderly widow. She was the director of the drama. Dhanu gave a jolt. She said, "Ratni,You!"
Ratni looked up and she just wrapped her arms around Dhanu. People could not understand anything. The scene was over in a few moments and just as Dhanu was free from the program was over, she went straight into the Green room.
Ratni now embraced her friend with both arms.
"What happened to Shivam. How did he die so early?" Dhanu whispered something in Ratni's ear. Ratni simply nodded her head in the negative and there were tears in her eyes.
Next day, Dhanu invited her director-friend to her posh hotel. When Ratni arrived at the hotel, her dress was totally changed. While eating, Dhanu asked Ratni several questions. Hearing that Shivam was not dead but was alive, Dhanu pursed her lips.
"Then, why are you dressed as a widow?"
"Just". There were tears shining in Ratni's eyes and it was very difficult to say whether they were tears of joy r sorrow. "I was never liked by Shivam. He never liked anything about me. He even restricted me from singing".
"But one doesn't spend one's entire life in singing talent".
Ratni's eyes were on Dhanu's face and Dhanu felt that there was a storm behind Ratni's eyes in where the dried leaves of her life were scattered around.
"I understood that you had married Shivam because you had read his article and you felt that he would not put any restrictions on your progress and talent".
"But the pride of living with somebody and allowing that person to progress troubled him. He became suspicious of all those who came in touch with me in connection with my singing. He felt that they had a liking for me".
"But Ratni you are a very likeable person. Even at this age your dimple in the chin and in your cheeks are so likeable".
"Shivam's upbringing was such that he never ever saw my beauty and he was jealous of other people's gazes".
"But Ratni, these small things keep occurring in every woman's life. I am feeling sad that for this you have separated from Shivam and living as a widow. My husband has left me a lot of wealth, but after his death I cannot explain to you how lonely I have become".
"Arey Didi". Ratni had tears in her eyes and wiped Dhanu's tears.
"Don't you think that my loneliness can explain to me your loneliness?"
Catching Ratni firmly by her two arms Dhanu asked, "Then why did you leave Shivam?"
"Oh. How I wish somebody could understand me! My delicate health, my loving relationship with everybody, my peace of mind, far away from any discrimination, all those became thorns for him. When friends and relatives and well-wishers came close to me, Shivam could not bear it".
"I cannot understand how Shivam's thinking changed so much.? My brother Girdhari was against this marriage from the very beginning. He had gauged the situation very well. About you he had said - 'Have east and west ever met? "And I would always say that if there is true love and devotion to a husband, in a woman then the couple would adjust and live like Shiv-Parvati".
"But where is Girdhari now?"
"Girdhari?" Dhanu pointed upwards, "He is in heaven. He got such a useless wife who made life miserable for him. She was a carefree girl from a rich family. She only smoked the whole day, took loans from different sources, went on foreign trips from where she would get plenty of goods. Girdhari was in charge, keeping an eye on the smugglers. Then one day his wife was caught. Girdhari could not bear that humiliation and right at that time, he simply went and jumped from the airport building, ending his life".
"Oh". Ratni held her breath, "I wish he would have divorced such a wife".
"Divorce?" Dhanu said laughingly "You were the one who had cried in my lap, isn't it Ratni? You told me to convince Shivam that he should not marry you in court but according to Hindu tradition because you hated the word 'divorce'..."
Today Ratni's head was bent down and she softly said, "Even I have taken a divorce to save myself from suicide".
- Translated by Arun Babani