Short Stories >> Kheryal Dharti >> Indifference (Be Rukhi)
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
Like a beautiful flower Nandini had bloomed in her parent's garden. Her parents too had nurtured her with great care. When her aunt's revolutionary nephew looked at twenty year old Nandini's beauty, lowering his heard he murmured, "Nandini! There is nobody like you among your relatives".
"Which means" Nandini asked with mischievous anger.
"Meaning?" "Scratching his head and saying, "A beauty like you" revolutionary Ashwini Kumar had quickly gone away. Aunt Ruki had called out, "Arey Ashwini where are you going?"
Ashwini went away without answering.
"Did you tell him anything?" Aunt asked Nandini.
"Nothing at all Babhi!"Nandini said, dusting her hands as protecting herself from some theft. "But Babhi, how did you allow your nephew to be names as Ashwini Kumar. In earlier days no one kept such beautiful names".
"Have you liked just the name or do you like him too?" Aunt laughed like the roses blooming.
"Ah..". again Nandini went away, dusting her hands.
When Nandini's parents had begun to look for a match for her, then Ashwini Kumar's name too had cropped up. For a long time they were busy with 'wanted a beautiful bride' of high status families because a beautiful bride came with a beautiful dowry too even though the grooms were ugly and dark. At times Nandini even cried looking at such grooms. Finally Ashwini Kumar grew lucky. Nandini herself too mentioned him once. And then Ashwini Kumar was too happy. Ruki was an aunt on both the sides. She had maternal feelings on both sides. She told her brother, "Take care that my daughter- like niece is not thrown into flames of revolution by Ashwini. This girl has been brought up like piece of silk!"
When her brother and sister-in-law assured her, Ruki told Nandini's parents, "My nephew is out of the world. He is very different from his rich cousins. My dear Nandini don't compare him with others. He is the owner of the treasures of the heart. Richer than the rich!"
But after her marriage Nandini somehow felt a tremendous lack. For some time Ashwini was impressed with her beauty and behavior but his un-ordinary lifestyle had made him forget everything. While doing social service he had forgotten even his home. One day Nandini, irritated, said, "Ashwini you don't have any interest in living life".
"Isn't getting married to you my interest in living life? And even work is part of life or not?"
Nandini was sulking. Ashwini had gone on his path. But now Nandini was not the same for him - 'the queen of his imagination, which he had conceived of before marriage. Now there was an invisible wall between the two. Sobbing, Nandini thought that had he not replied in such a harsh tone I would have not minded. How irritated he is. Oh God! He seems bitter about me. As soon as she thought "he is bitter about me" tears began flowing down her cheeks.
Ashwini was not aware about Nandini's frustration but he did notice her forlorn face. A few times he asked her, "Has any one said something to you?"
Nandini shook her head. Ashwini was a bit angry because he was too tied up with his work. Just knowing that she is fine and no one has told her anything, he considered that as the end of his responsibility, and he got busy in work.
Nandini was caring for Ashwini but instead of sweetening her bitter heart she turned bitter towards Ashwini. Now she began taking new interest in her sisters-in-laws, sisters and friends. Her friends were happy with her and said, "We had thought that you had found a star in Ashwini and you won't leave him even for a moment".
Now Ashwini grew angrier, saying, "You are always surrounded by some or the other friend or sister. What should I do if I have some work in you or have to take you out?"
"You have never asked me to come out with you".
"How should I say? You should be interested in that isn't it?"
Nandini's life took a new turn. She was with Ashwini in every social work. Even there when Ashwini was busy in lectures, elections and work, Nandini was busy in gossiping here and there. One day Ashwini sharply told her, "What is all this? Why are you flattering my friends? Is there any other friend's wife's name on people's lips? It is only you that everyone is talking about".
Nandini became nervous and said, "I speak sweetly to all your social workers, their wives and their children..".
That is the whole matter. Looking at your behaviour everybody has started commenting that Ashwini did not deserve such a beautiful and gentle lady...Are you satisfied now listening to this?"
Nandini instantly burst out crying. Ashwini's mother got very angry and said, "What is the problem that you have created such a big noise? The way you are going around with your husband and laughing about with your friends. Is there any other lady who has got such freedom?
Nandini began crying even more. That day Aunt suddenly paid a visit to Nandini's house. The mother–in-law complained to her as well, "Your husband's niece is not happy in anything. How did you arrange such a match for my obedient son Ashwini? You are my sister-in-law and you were aware about Ashwini's nature from the beginning..".
Aunt felt a burden of muck on her own delicate identity. She called Nandini and made her sit besides her, saying, "My dear, it seems as if you have cried a lot today".
Tears flowed down Nandini's cheeks but there was such a smile on her face that aunt too felt love towards her. She kissed her forehead, wiped her tears with her palu, and said, "How will you stop this flowing of tears like rain from your eyes?" Nandini burst out crying even more.
"Do you have any complaints about your mother-in-law?"
Nandini shook her head.
Aunt then asked, "are you missing your little sisters and nieces who keep changing their every now and then, playing around with Henna on their hands...they are only playing cards in their maternal homes...fasting for Teej and Chouth and going up on the terrace ...Praying to the Moon...is this what you are missing...isn't it?" Nandini again shook her head. It was then that aunt gave a bit of advice and got up. On her way back, she passed by Ashwini's office, went inside and told him to meet her tomorrow when he is free. When Ashwini looked at her questioningly, aunt said, "You have simply forgotten me?"
The next day Ashwini left an hour earlier for office. Aunt came to the point and said, "Ashwini you are aware that a child who is left handed by birth becomes dull if you force him to become right handed?"
"Not may be, it is so. Even psychologists have said that just like trees are different from each other, so also human nature is different in different people".
"Leave aside this useless talk. If you leave human beings to nature it will lead to chaos. People need to be controlled and have to be made to follow a system. What is the government of the country for?
"Ashwini, Ashwini, why don't you understand? The rebels in the prison would undergo punishment but would not accept anyone's control over them...I feel that you have some other problem in your mind".
Ashwini lost control and said, "Oh, all my friends praise her. Who is she to them?"
Oh Oh Ashwini," aunt tried to put her arms around Ashwini and laughingly said, Ashwini you are envious of Nandini?"
"Yes, I am envious of this stupid mad girl? I don't know what you are thinking".
"Look Ashwini there are few sensitive girls like Nandini and men are more understanding. Rarely will you find a girl like Nandini. That is why she is praised by everyone. You may be more intelligent than her but on account of being a man you have not got more respect..".
"Oh just leave it. It's getting late. Let me go".
Aunt told Ashwini,"First open your hand".
After being told a few times Ashwini put his hand forward. Aunt wrote with her finger 'Love'
"Meaning, give love to Nandini. Everything about her will make you happy".
"Dadi you too are talking like Nandini who says that I have no interest in life".
Aunt kissed his forehead and said, "Son, look within. There is darkness below an earthen lamp, but the Sun is fully light. It lights up even the rat's hole. You are not an earthen lamp but you are the light".
Ashwini was continuously thinking of his aunt's words, 'Sun is fully light'.
Suddenly he realized that what all he had been thinking all these days. He felt a burden of a stone on his heart. Till evening the words 'Sun is fully light' kept chanting in his heart and that melted his being and made it light.
Looking at a packet of chana in Ashwini's hands, Nandini was surprised and kept watching him, "Eat these chana Nandini! For so many years we haven't eaten grams and today I feel them so tasty".
Nandini took a few grams and said, "True"
In the night when her husband did not switch on the table lamp nor picked up a book in his hands, even then Nandini looked at him in surprise.
Ashwini said, "Oh we haven't closed our room door. Nandini just close the door!"
There was a very bright smile on Nandini's face. But instead of closing the door, she simply put off the tube light.
Then Ashwini said, "There so much light coming in from the outside room". he got up and closed the door himself.
After some days when Nandini and Ashwini happily visited aunt's house, Nandini said, "I don't know how we had forgotten aunt for so many days".
Ashwini said, "No MY aunt".
Nandini said, "Your big aunt and my big aunt".
Then aunt laughingly said, "Call me Babhi, all me Dadi ...But I'm the same Ruki".
Nandini laughed and said, My DEAREST aunt".
Pinching her cheeks aunt said, "My girl, you're the DEAREST niece of your uncle, that's why mine too".
Ashwini said 'And me?' in such a humorous way that both Nandini and aunt Ruki laughed aloud.
After eating snacks when they were leaving, Ruki asked softly, "Ashwini how was the problem solved?"
Ashwini looking towards Nandini said, "The stick that you gave in my hand".
"Stick?" Nandini looked questioningly towards her husband and then towards aunt Ruki. Ruki herself was surprised at the word 'stick'
"Now Dadi this riddle you will have to solve".
And without waiting for an answer they both left laughing. For some time Ruki's mind was confused but her whole being was very happy today.
- Translated by Arun Babani