Short Stories >> Bandhan >> Hands full of milk, eyes full of tears (Kheera baraya hathra)

Short Stories

Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani

“Yes, Jyoti?”
“Why is the dog crying today?”
“You don’t believe in such superstitions.”
“God knows why…I’m really scared today.”
“Scared of what?...Of darkness?”
“No Deepak, not when you are with me…”
“Arre what is this…are you crying Jyot…?”
“No ...I'm not crying.”
“There is so much fragrance in the flowers on your hair.”
“There was such a strong fragrance in the flower woman Rani’s hands, her handkerchief, and even in her hair.”
“You only must have smelt all that! We did not get such an opportunity.” “Opportunity!!”

“Where is the need for another fragrance when there is so much fragrance in your hair itself? Do you remember when we were newly married and my sister had bought a shampoo for you. You asked her to never bring that again. You said how could you use shampoo when so many women from your country could not even afford to use cheap multani mitti.”

(Deepak) “What is this? you are shivering!”
“What was that sound?”
“Perhaps a tree must have fallen.”
“In such a stormy weather trees will naturally fall.”
“Will all trees fall during a storm?”
“What’s the matter with you, Jyoti? The trees with strong roots will not fall.”
“No…no…those can fall too.”
“Why will they fall? Arre what is this! There are tears flowing from your eyes. Come, come, put your head on my chest.”
“Are you listening?”
“The Mumbai sea outside seems to be in turmoil.”
“No my dear queen, the monsoon water is flowing through the streets.”
“Yes…it is so.”
“Jyoti, I feel like you are catching a fever.”
“No…it’s nothing. Weren’t we talking about Chandra now..”
“Yes, you were saying that when she put the flowers in your hair, you were getting its fragrance from everything.”
“Yes, it was so and when I held her arm and told her that she had become fair, you know what she replied?”
“What did she say?”
“She gave a sweet laugh and said – My body is made of milk, you know..”)

I see…they are rich people, they must be drinking milk every now and then, so naturally it will be shown in their body…! Some people cannot even afford milk for their babies.

“It is a strange cycle…Somewhere there is so much hunger, and somewhere there is abundance.”

“But Jyoti, why is your voice sounding so heavy today?”
“No, where is it heavy? Now will you listen to something strange?”
“Tell me.”
When we went to receive Chandra at the station and I saw her bright face at the door, a shiver ran through my spine.

“Really! Why was that?”
“I don’t understand why. I don’t envy anybody. I have you and I consider myself as the luckiest woman in the whole world.”
“I haven’t made you very happy. Your complexion has changed completely. It’s been 7 or 8 years since Chandra and you have both been married but look at her. She looks newly married even today and you…”
“And I’ve grown old…”
“Arre arre, are you crying or laughing? When did I say that you have grown old?”
“Say it then, it doesn’t matter, it’s the truth.”
“No, stupid!…forget it.”
“You won’t speak the truth.”
“Why won’t I?”
“You only say that just as one cannot tolerate harsh light, harsh truths, especially from people close to one cannot be accepted.”
“Leave aside these heavy topics.”

“Eight years…such a long period…but looks so short. Seems as if yesterday, the Holi fire was burning, my aunt had come down to bake biscuits in the Holi fire. She began talking to my father about marriage proposals. She began talking about a match for Chandra. My dad told her that he was prepared for any one of the two cousins - Jyoti and Chandra to be selected by them. Oh God! My heart started beating so hard at that moment.”

“Arre I can still hear it.”
“Stop joking.”
“Thank God, at least you laughed.”

And when maasi said that since Jyoti is older so she should get engaged first, I began crying. But thank God that she also said that since they demanded a large dowry, Chandra could get engaged. Her maternal grandmother had left her shares in the bank for Chandra, which could be used to get her married.”

Are you listening, Deepak?”
“Yes I am listening…it would have been good if your maternal grandmother had also left something for you.”
“Oh no, I was relieved when aunty spoke of dowry. I felt that my poverty was a blessing.”

You are asking why again. You must be thinking that Chandra liked you. But she would only read your poems, I would internalize them. Chandra only liked what was outside but I accepted you as Lord Krishna’s idol in the temple of my mind.

“And I called you Radha the moment I saw you.”
“But I came to your house as Rukmini.”
“I do not see any difference between ‘Radha’ and ‘Rukmini’.”
“I don't know why but today I feel that difference.”
“Come on, dear.”
“…I don’t know but I feel a pain in my chest.”
“Perhaps it is the chilly weather.”
“But I feel that the wind is warm.”
“Then what is the reason?”
“I just cannot understand.Yes, I was talking about Chandra. How beautiful she looks. In the few hours that she spent in our small house, it felt as though there were new lights in the house.”

“Oh, new lights is it?”
I asked her to stay over so much but how could she leave Savitri’s Worli beach bungalow and stay over in this mosquito-ridden Andheri house? “
“Anyway, whatever happened, but her melodious laughter is still ringing in my ears.”

“That is nothing. Do you know that when you cry looking at the suffering of other living beings, those sobs of sympathy keep ringing in my ears for weeks?”
“Again jokes…”
“I’m talking facts.”
“To tell you the truth, this time Chandra really appealed to me.”
“You must be thinking that if your husband too was rich like Chandra’s husband then even your arms would shine like milk - just as Chandra’s arms.”

“Yes, then you would be inspired by my beauty and write poems.”
“Arre, leave the jokes aside…can the light from your soul that brightens up my spirit be achieved by just a beautiful body? You have connected so much with the common women of our country that their joys and sorrows reflect in you and your body. That is why even in my poetry these women find their voices.”

“Shall I tell you something interesting?”
“Tell me.”
“I told Chandra that a day shall arrive when the body of every Indian woman will be made of milk.”
“Did she get angry?”
“She was not angry but she said that such a day will never arrive in our country.”
“Just, she said that she did not believe such a thing could happen in our country.”

“What do we even say to non believers?”
“Yes, what can you say to them…Disbelievers should stay very far from our lives…”
“What, what are you saying? I feel that something else is going on in your mind. You are talking to me but it feels like you are answering to your own self.”
“Yes, there was something…I don’t know how…”
“What do you not know?’
“I don’t know how, but a little weakness entered my mind.”

“I don’t know how but I wondered if the heart that loves dew drops was impressed by diamonds.”
“You still feel so?”
“No, now my mind is strong.”
“Even then you are crying?”
“…It was a big storm…I’m terrible, aren’t I?”
“Never mind, sometimes even the stable earth experiences a jolt.”

“Is only the earth weak? Not the sky?”
When the sky experiences a jolt, it takes the form of clouds and descends on earth and embraces it and becomes stable.” “I think the rain outside has stopped.”
“Yes, it seems so.”
“Let me open the window.”
“Wait, let me do it.”
The sound of the flute fills the atmosphere...
“Arre, we didn’t hear the sound of the flute all this while.”
“Because the window was closed.”
“Such a bad night. The sound of the flute is so melodious after the showers.”
“Your innocent laughter is even more melodious than that.”
“Jyoti, Jyoti, go to sleep now na.”
“Arre, Tears...”

- Translated by Arun Babani

The End


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