Short Stories >> Atam Vishwas >> Harjas And Chetan
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
"Hari, did you like this hotel?" Chetan asked.
"Chetan you have this knack of understanding others' liking" Harjas said.
Chetan and Harjas were relaxing by the poolside of the hotel, on iron chairs with soft cushions.
Chetan had turned to look at Harjas, to hear her answer. He laughed and said," I never imagined that in the seventy-five years of life you would live up to your name".
Now Harjas too turned towards Chetan. There was a very small gap of a few fingers between their two armchairs. She said, "Chetan, this name of mine has also been responsible for me bearing a lot in my life. But you tell me, why did you call me 'Hari today when you always referred to me as Jassi?"
"No, I called you Hari sometimes and Jassi too at times. Who can call out a name - HARJAS!"
Harjas laughed with her false teeth.
Chetan said, "Hari, even at this age, your laugh is endearing".
"Chetan, atleast you don't make me realise my age. I always say that I am a seventy-five-year-old young lady".
"In that way even, I call myself a sixty-five-year-old young man. But Hari, much water has flown through in the last many years. The storms of memories have created craters on the mind".
Hari become sad too and after a moment she said, "So many of our friends have left us and gone away. I had never imagined even in my dreams that Indru would go before me. As long as he was alive, he stood before you. Even now he must be looking forward to seeing you up there. You are very difficult Chetan".
"Oh, am I the difficult one? Your husband Indrumal was the one who was difficult. Perhaps he will forgive me from the heavens. But he really kept me longing to have a relationship with you".
"Chetan why do say that? Even you must have felt irritated at your Vandana speaking freely with someone or the other?"
"Hari, what argument can I have with you. I cannot tell you the amount of freedom I had given Vandana. I had never ever stopped her from meeting anybody. We two had a very strong loving relationship". Chetan was silent for a while, watching a few couples swimming in the pool.
Harjas looked towards the direction where Chetan was looking. She said, "Chetan, you are looking at the pool, but the past is working on your mind. Tell me frankly, what incident had taken place. Now that Vandana is no more, so there is no question of verifying anything".
Chetan sat upright on his iron chair. Taking the support of her arm, Harjas turned to look at Chetan. He said, "Thoughtful. Actually, a wife never has any envy. She only wishes to have the topmost position in her husband's eyes, above all other women. A wife's love is very aggressive".
Now Harjas too sat up, saying, "Today you have said something very true. If my Indru had some feeling of love then our lives in the last few years would have not been so difficult".
"What do you mean?
At first Harjas tried to avoid Chetan but on his insisting, she finally gave in. She said, "It is a laughable matter. He was suspicious that we both shared a love-relationship".
"How come? He had kept you away from all your friends. It is a laughable matter because you and I were so far off from each other".
Looking far away in distance Harjas took a deep breath and said, "It is a laughable matter but when he accused me then I became mad with sorrow. You are ten years younger to me and I was a domestic woman".
Chetan went into deep thought.
Harjas said, "Actually Indru was very insensitive. Being a man, he wished to be superior to a woman. Like two flowing rivers coming from opposite directions create a fog, such was the condition of his life".
Chetan asked, "You also fell a victim to that fog?"
"No," Harjas said, "I was helplessly drawn into that fog. But I was saved because within me I knew that Indru's allegations and insensitivity towards me were baseless and were based on falsity. I pitied him on hearing his abuses and accusations. I used to forgive him for everything".
Suddenly there was a splashing sound. Someone had jumped into the pool from the top. Chetan and Harjas kept looking in that direction. As the swimmer's head slowly came up above the water, Harjas heaved a sigh of relief. That moment Chetan got up and put his hands on Harjas's feet. She tried to move her feet away, saying," Oh, oh. What are you doing Chetan?"
Without moving his hands from her feet, Chetan said, "Let me call you 'Didi'. I shall call you Didi from today".
Patting his head Harjas said, "If you call me 'Amma' too I shall not mind because I have understood since a long time, that the artistic middle-class family that I have been brought up in, you too have been brought up in the same. The family in which you have been brought up is similar my maternal family, where there was awareness about devotion, love and Bhakti, compassion and such qualities. When I saw these human feelings in your thoughts, I was very happy and that is the time perhaps when Indru became doubtful".
Helplessly Chetan said, "What can I say Didi? We men are not only passionate about creating property but are also passionate about considering our wives as our property".
Taking a deep breath and cracking her fingers Harjas said, "I wish the time will come when a woman will be considered as an equal partner in the property rather than a man's property".
"Didi, to bring about such an equality is a woman's responsibility too".
"Ofcourse. Ofcourse. If a woman handles her mental qualities, and progresses with her mind and intelligence, if she stops wasting time in gossip only then she can climb that ladder and some percentage of women have already climbed that ladder. The question is acknowledgement of such a progress from the man".
"What do you mean?' "The meaning is clear. If a woman is working in an organisation along with man, then the man has no right to blame her for anything".
"Didi, even women blame men unnecessarily .We sit in offices, hotels and trains with women and talk to them; that does not mean that every woman we meet should get the position of a 'wife'"
Pausing for a moment Chetan said, "Didi! If you watch, you will see that it is all a lack of vision. Mahatma Gandhi tried to bring about a revolution about this wish that the male-society should consider the woman intelligent like man. In Russia, Lennon too had worked hard about this. Women like you have already achieved such rights in the world!"
Harjas smiled and lied down again on the iron armchair. Chetan was still sitting erect on his chair. Suddenly he shouted and said, "Didi, see the sky has come down!"
Harjas got up and looked in the direction that Chetan was looking and said, "Wow, the whole pool has become like a red sky".
"Isn't it? The entire sky has fallen into the pool..."
Slowly the redness of the sky was fading away. Harjas said, "Chetan, let us go". And she started searching for her slippers.
Chetan kept looking at her. Finally, he said, "Shall we go?"
Harjas raised her eyes and looked at Chetan. Chetan saw that there were tears shining in Harjas's eyes. Taking a deep breath, he said, "Let's go".
Harjas took his support and got up.
- Translated by Arun Babani