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Short Stories

Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani

When she came for the first time for the promotion of a shampoo brand, she called me aunty. She started speaking in English about the qualities and the price of the shampoo in a sweet voice.
I told her, “You have just climbed four flights of stairs, why don’t you sit and catch your breath!”
Looking all around the house, she came and sat down on a chair by a large table in the hall. I offered her biscuits and water. Putting aside the biscuits, she picked out a papad from the jar with her slender fingers and holding it before me she asked “Aunty, can I have it?” but in Sindhi this time.

“Arre wah! You are a Sindhi? I thought you were a Parsi or Gujarati.”
“No aunty, I’m a pure Sindhi. My parents got me educated in a convent so I don’t look like a Sindhi.”
“Thank God, at least you had a Sindhi papad.”
“I am very fond of Papad”
“And talking in Sindhi?”

“I like it but my mom and dad speak Hindi and English at home.”
“Then how did you learn Sindhi?”
“My sweet grandma! She speaks only in Sindhi.”
“It can then be said that only your grandmother has kept the Sindhi language alive in your house.”

“Aunty, the relatives of my Marathi and Gujarati friends speak only in their own mother tongue at home.”
“Obviously then, you must not like the fact that your relatives don’t speak in Sindhi at home?”
“That feels really bad aunty. Just look at how much the British love their language! They come from so far off to establish schools and to teach us English...”

I began to love this young girl’s intelligence. Patting her shoulder I said, “Even Sindhi writers, miles away from their motherland, have upheld the pride of the Sindhi language before other communities”
She fell in deep thought for a while. Suddenly she said, “But what about this shampoo aunty?”
I purchased the shampoo but for many days, I kept remembering her face full of thoughts.

Next time when she came, at the door itself she exclaimed, “How are you, Didi?”
She shook my hands in such a way that I was shocked.
Walking gingerly towards me she asked with pride, “Tell me didi, what’s happening with your Sindhi?”
I pulled her cheeks and brought her in and said, “What do you mean your Sindhi? Why don’t you call it our Sindhi?”

“Sorry, tell me what’s happening with our Sindhi?”
“My dear, the burden of acceptance or rejection of Sindhi now lies on the shoulders of youngsters like you.”
“Didi, you are right.”
I asked, “Which shampoo or cream are you promoting today?”

“Arre no, today I have come here with a very big purpose.”
“Very big?” I asked, blinking.
I felt like teasing this young nineteen or twenty year old. But she spoke seriously,
“Yes didi, there is a women’s organization in our colony. They have called for a meeting in which representatives of different communities will speak about their own community’s history, culture, literature, music, etc.”
“So you will represent the Sindhi community there?”

“Last time you told me that whoever speaks in Sindhi is a soldier of the Sindhi community! Look, today I have spoken everything in Sindhi, isn’t it?”
“You are very clever. You have caught me in my own words.”
“And what about me being trapped by the women’s organization? They were asking if there were any saints, writers, musicians and festivals in the Sindhi community just like there were in their communities. I told them, ‘Yes, yes of course. There must be.’ Why should I stay behind?”

“You seem very proud to be a Sindhi?”
“That is a given. Everyone is so proud of their community, why should I not be? Didi, no matter how much we converse in English and Hindi but we all remain Sindhis. Isn’t it…?”
Just as I was beginning to feel proud for this youngster, she suddenly jumped up looking at her watch and said “I’ll come back in the evening with the question paper, ok?”
She has gone but she has left in me a flame of hope for this new generation.

- Translated by Arun Babani

The End


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