Short Stories >> Bandhan >> I will wait (Maan tarsandas)
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
If the past could be washed away with the flow of tears, then Radha was ready to spend her entire life crying. But in the loneliness of the night when she felt helpless because of her tears, she got up from her bed. She dried her tears with the curtain, looking at the dark spread out sky, she sat on the window sill. On one side of the window was a valley of death three storeys below and on the other side there was a strange disturbance, a stressful life like a crooked line- life that contained a sin.
One sin, two human beings. In reality there is always some harm towards another being in any sin. Any action that is limited to just one person is not considered a sin. An action changes into a sin only if another person is harmed by it.
But she couldn’t understand who she had harmed by spending one night with a taxi driver. She was not ready to accept this act as a sin simply because others considered it a sin. Then what was all this confusion? Was it born out of not understanding one’s own self?
Radha would generally not have felt confused with understanding herself, but she had neither the courage nor the desire to ignore the person who was advising her. Four days ago, she even attempted to gather the courage to ignore them but just for a moment. When she said, “Dada, don’t be sad, it was all God’s wish” and Prabdas slapped her hard, roaring, “Even now you hold God responsible for your weakness.” At that moment Radha thought to herself, “Who is Prabdas to say anything to me?”
But when he put his head on the table sadly and pleaded, “I don’t have my own daughter Radha and so I made the mistake of considering you my daughter. What right do I have to correct and reprimand you?”
Radha felt like falling at his feet and pleading, “Don’t consider me a stranger Baba. I also don’t have a father.” But she was not able to do so. She could only say, “There are no real relationships, only well-wishers are real relatives. I will think about what you said.”
To think was one thing, but to act upon it was another. If thought and action were in unity then all of this would not have happened. Radha would have never imagined even in her wildest dreams that she would surrender herself to a taxi driver!
What she had never thought about had happened and what she had repeatedly thought and dreamt about – living like a princess, wearing expensive saris, make-up and owning a huge, high society beautiful house - all of this remained a dream and could not be realized.
What had now occurred had to be thought about. What had to be thought? As difficult as it was to move forward, it was even more difficult to go backwards. And she was sitting in immense pain, suffering in the loneliness of the night. Today, she felt a strange fear of the past moments, of the sleeping world outside the window, and even the light from the bulb.
She got up and lay down on the bed. Suddenly, the curtain swayed and touched her face. She almost screamed but when she realized that her mother who was sleeping in the adjoining room had woken up and gone out to fetch water and the breeze from the opposite door had committed this mischievous act, she laughed. But these moments were not to laugh about…She took a deep cold breath, wrapped up the curtain and put it under her head. The cool and smooth feel of the silk curtain felt for one moment like the touch of a living, breathing being - consoling and relaxing. Such a being who came in with the breeze and was exactly like her - living but lifeless and weak.
But if there was life, there was love. Then how does it matter if it is not with a human being from one’s own community but with a friend from another community? But Prabdas had said, “Radha this is not love but a degradation of love in which you and girls like you demean the Sindhi society along with yourselves.”
“The society can flourish or flounder. How can a single individual like me be responsible for it?” “Each person makes a society, daughter!” “Then each one’s feelings are also the feelings of the society? The society did not care for my feelings, so how do I care for the society’s feelings.”
“Your feelings are that you don’t have regard for the person upholding the culture of your community but a taxi driver from a different community and his lifestyle is alright for you.”
Yes, it was the taxi driver itself with whom Prabdas had seen her entering a hotel .Oh God, it would have been better if he had raised a storm there itself instead of opening the hotel room door and freezing someone with his cold glare. That would have made things much easier for Radha. She would have stubbornly run away with that person. But Prabdas had taken a very strange route and after coming home, he had turned his life upside down. If it is difficult to walk on a path carved by someone else, then it is equally difficult to walk on one’s own path.
Mother came into the room, switched off the light and left. On her way out, as she pulled the curtain she realized that Radha is awake. To make her aware and to express her sorrow, she said “Sri Ram” with a deep cold breath.
Radha thought to herself “What right has she to feel sad? Is she not a partner in my sin to some extent? From when I was twenty years old, she had rejected so many marriage proposals. Some were not astrologically matched, some were below status, others earned less and still some had a lower culture than us. And the way she would proudly proclaim ‘My Radha will not go into such a family’…was that justified?”
This attitude of the mother was responsible for Radha’s pride and she considered herself as a very special woman. The qualities of the special woman were hair grooming, nail care, watching cinema, watching a new film on the first day of its release…
Prabdas would travel from Bombay to Poona with a proposal for this special girl, but Radha wouldn’t agree to marry into a family where she too had to earn. No, not at all. Radha would rather not marry. After all she was just 25 years old!
When people asked when she would get married, she would reply, “What is the hurry? There are girls who are 32 years old and still not married.”
Was it that she wanted to get married at an older age or was it a case of the fox finding the grapes sour?
There was a strange answer to this case. During Ganesh pooja, Radha had attended a jagran at the neighbor’s house. A taxi owner had taken Radha for sightseeing to all of Poona’s gardens. The mother saw that Radha kept disappearing from the house for most of the day. She did not know who to share this with and she waited for Prabdas impatiently.
When Prabdas came, he secretly followed Radha and found out her secret. When her mother found out, she was shocked, refused to eat and she was almost listless.
On her return, Radha acted carefree though something was eating her on the inside. She told her mother with great arrogance, “If girls are friends with girls, everything is alright. The moment a girl and a boy are friends, all hell breaks loose.”
Her mother angrily said, “Why are they doomed? The horse has taken the reins in his own hands. We have to watch how far he will run! But my child, let me tell you that if you are too choosy, you ultimately land up with the very ordinary.”
If it is another community they are ordinary? What about our own community in which there are many who are greedy? But there is no need to think that far. A relationship between a girl and a boy may not necessarily mean marriage, it can also be friendship.
“Daughter, friendship can be due a common project, studying together, having common goals…” Prabdas roared seriously, “not for roaming in hotels and receiving gifts, nor to throw cotton in the fire and beating the drums outside announcing it…and look, look, today fire and cotton are together but fire could not burn the cotton…”
But the cotton had already burnt. Radha had tears in her eyes. Although her mother and Prabdas may not know how and when Radha had lost her way but Radha felt that all this was now written on her forehead. But this stain on her forehead could not be wiped away by her tears.
When the taxi owner told her, “So what if we have become physically and mentally intimate in our friendship? There is no need to harp about it to the world. Neither your family or mine is happy with our relationship. When the time comes, we will laugh and happily say goodbye to each other.” It was then that Radha felt like she had dozed off in a moving bus and by the time she woke up, she had gone past her destination. Now, she had reached a barren land – a barren land where she could see Ganga and Savitri roaming around. Ganga had eloped with non-Sindhi man from a film background who had abandoned her after the birth of her child. She didn’t know where he went. She withered away like a winter flower and grew old before her time in this cruel and exploitative world.
Savitri had lost all her beauty and had returned as a patient to her mother’s house. Just as she had fought with her mother to become a Gujarati man’s mistress, in the same manner she fought with him against being his mistress and returned to her mother after leaving the Gujarati to the care of his wife. The Gujarati man happily bid her farewell and now weak and helpless, Savitri was running from pillar to post in courts…
Prabdas said, “My dear child, wise people learn from the example of others. Ganga and Savitri are like the petals of a flower - fallen and trampled upon...cut off from their community…”
Radha thought that if one has to happily bid farewell then what is the difference between humans and animals? The confusion was over. She got up, put on the light and brought out a pen and paper from the drawer and began writing.
The past cannot be erased but it can be looted and that loot may one day become destructive. You are right, it is foolish to add a hundred more mistakes to the one mistake committed in life. How does it matter if my community does not have cars, motorcycles and bungalows for middle class girls like me? I shall labor with my hands, wear simple sarees. You were right. Brave girls like me should not waste their lives in luxuries but should consider life as sacrifice and renunciation. Yes, I am also a part of my community… I will wait…for a man from our community who doesn’t happily bid farewell but is always ready to be by my side all through life.
- Translated by Arun Babani