Short Stories >> Atam Vishwas >> Ghost of Discrimination (Bhed Bhav jo Bhoot)
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
He asked "Will you listen to a poem?"
Controlling a jerk within her, Sheela said, "I don't like poems".
Deepak looked into her eyes. Sheela felt as if someone is holding two lamps in a dark room and her gaze fell on the scattered poverty within, where there was neither wealth nor knowledge because neither the pages of books were flying nor were there silk curtains flowing. Feeling ashamed of her poor state, she lowered her gaze. Before her was the master who had wealth as well as wisdom and even then, what was the reason for covering her poor house with her eyelids? Was it self-pride or self-respect? Her heart said -self-pride and Sheela, opening the back door of her courtyard, had said once, "I do not like poems because I don't understand them. But I did not say that I don't like your talking".
"Okay". Deepak took a deep breath and giving Sheela a passionate look, he moved towards his group of friends.
Sheela pulled out the grass surrounding the big stone she was sitting on and threw it away. The bell rang for the lecture in college. She got up and went to her class. As she met Deepak's gaze, her gaze lowered as if she was saying, "You consider me a pretty toy isn't it?"
But in the aloneness of the night when she reflected on this small college incident she could not sleep without taking a decision on it.Much was decided in very few words, "If I was a nobody then why would he have come to me to recite a poem, leaving aside all other college girls? But because I was sitting alone, in the corner of the college garden he perhaps misunderstood that I was tired of my friends' mischievous behaviour and so I must be a serious soul. Whatever it was, he has misunderstood, that is why it is not correct to say that he has hurt my self-respect".
And the next day she grew restless and wished to apologise to Deepak...But she couldn't find any reason for such feelings.
But the wait was in vain. That day Deepak did not come to college. Sheela went home and plucked all the flowers from her courtyard and threw them.
On the third day as Deepak was entering the college door, a voice fell on his ears, somewhat hesitant and somewhat bold. She was saying, "Why didn't you come yesterday?"
Deepak's face brightened. Behind these words - "Why didn't you come yesterday? Was echoing the feeling - "How much you made me wait".
Listening to that his mind lightened up like a glow-worm.
Walking along with Sheela on the college lawn he softly said, "It was the flower's (Gul's)naming ceremony".
"What do you mean?" Sheela hid her disappointment with her eyelids.
"Nothing. It was just my nephew's naming ceremony, so I did not come".
Sheela took a sigh of relief.
"What did you name him?"
"His name is Gulab".
"Why, did you not like it?"
"It is old-fashioned".
"Flowers are never old".
"Calling people by flower-names is old fashioned. I would certainly not call myself Chameli".
"And what about Kamal and Kamilini?"
"They sound okay. They are not too old".
"In the same way Gulab is old and Gul is a new name".
"Then why didn't you say that he is named Gul?"
"Then how would his mother's desire to add 'Rai'to the name be fulfilled?"
"I did not understand".
"I mean that from Gulab he will become Gulabrai, but from Gul he will also be able to become Guldas".
"Why, he can become Gulraj too?"
"Our elders loved to add 'Rai' and 'Das' and 'Mal' because it gives out a Sindhi fragrance". "I don't know what kind of elders you have. Our elders must have been happy to be called 'Raj', otherwise how would our surname be 'Gulrajani'?"
Deepak gave a frozen look and said, "This 'your' and ''ours' discrimination is very expensive".
"Arey. Arey. Such a long face?"
"This also comes from an English expression - 'Long Face' and I did not like adding 'such a long' instead of 'what a long'..." Sheela's face withered.
For some time, Deepak kept thinking within himself and as his gaze fell on Sheela's sad face, he burst out laughing, saying, "Oh oh..."
Sheela said in a heavy tone, "If someone sitting nearby is busy searching himself then it is better that the other should disappear. Anyway, we two have found each other. Let us go, the lecture has begun".
Sheela looked around and was surprised, so many girls and boys were passing her by, entering the door. She could understand how, standing at the corner, at the entrance of the door, she was so happy that she had been unaware of all the students passing by. Keeping back to awareness she took quick steps, went ahead of Deepak and reached the staircase. A little distance away, a young boy was humming the song, Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya!
"Sheela, whom are you voting for?"
"That old-fashioned Jiani?"
Sheela frowned. She pinched her friend, Kanta and said, "Whatever, he has become Deepak from Deepo".
"That is why I don't like talking to girls at all". Kanta folded her hands in a Namaste and went away. When Sheela heard her two friends' laughter from a distance, she felt thorns pricking her. That day she also felt the food very tasteless at home and she complained of the glasses at home being very dirty. She felt that the blouse her sister-in-law had stitched for her very out- dated and ill-fitted.
That evening when she saw Deepak at her place, she was shocked. Suddenly, she understood the root cause of the storm within her. She looked at him in amazement...
"Miss Gulrajani, will you ask me to sit or will you continue to stare at this strange animal?"
Her sister Maina, sitting in a corner, gave out a laughter. Sheela felt like telling her to get out but such a thing had never happened in Gulrajani family before. Saying, "I'll get some tea..." she went into the kitchen. In a few minutes she returned with a cup of tea in one hand and some biscuits and kept it on the table.
"This was not necessary". Deepak said.
"Everything is not done out of a necessity".
"But you too have some tea". Deepak said endearingly.
"I have just had some". Again, Maina gave a laugh from the corner of the room, but her face was bent down towards a book, as if she was reading something funny and laughing.
Deepak and Sheela took a sigh of relief. Sipping his tea Deepak said, "In this election I'm sure you will canvas for me".
"You are acquainted with many girls".
"Not 'am' acquainted, but 'was' acquainted".
"Okay, so now you have become a sanyasi?' Sheela teased him with a twinkle in her eyes.
"Anyway, there are no flowers without thorns. I must get going now".
Even then Sheela continued staring and from the corner Maina kept giggling loudly. After Deepak left, Maina came and said, "Didi, look at this".
Sheela saw that Maina had drawn a cartoon of Deepak and had captioned it
NO TIE. NO CAP. NOT EVEN SHINING SHOES.
HIS HEAD IS TRIANGULAR, CLEVER IN TALKING.
NO WAIST BELT.HOW WILL HE MANAGE HIS SUIT?
HE WOULD BE CALLED A FOOL CANVASING FOR ELECTIONS.
For a moment Sheela felt like strangulating her sister. But the next moment she thought that Maina had saved her from committing a big mistake and she burst out laughing.
The elections were over. Jiani got only eight votes but even then, there was no sign of any defeat on his face. He happily shook hands with the new secretary. Friends joked that Jiani has lost the whole world because of one.
With emotion-filled eyes Jiani said, "But somebody can find the whole world in one also". The friends clapped and applauded him. One of them said, "That was a good one".
Deepak started sipping water with intoxicated eyes.
In the evening Deepak was sitting in Sheela's house and casually talking to her. Suddenly seeing the corner empty he said, "Sheela, I am confused about something".
"What is it?"
"My family is thinking of getting me married".
"In your caste they get you married before this age".
"Yes. But what do you think?"
Sheela remembered Maina's cartoon and she softly said, "This is your personal matter. I cannot say anything in this. It all depends on you".
"I found it necessary to ask you because of our relationship that has developed in the past few months".
"So, you asked me and I answered. Otherwise I don't interfere in other people's affairs".
Deepak was quiet for a while and then with a cool sigh, he stood up to go. Turning back, he said, "Namaskar to Sheela Kumari, the city-bred lady".
The word 'city-bred' pierced Sheela's heart.
Now Sheela was looking for Deepak not only in the college but even on the roads. She would become sad if she spotted anyone on the roads, looking even a bit like Deepak.
One day she told her sister Maina, "Show me Deepak's cartoon once again".
"Arey Didi, I am ready to make another cartoon now. When Deepumal will on a horse with a crown on his head and a handkerchief on his face..."
With a sharp gaze Sheela told her sister, "You are very rigid about caste and creed. Even after losing our motherland, the discrimination between native and urban lingers like a ghost.
- Translated by Arun Babani