Short Stories >> Kheryal Dharti >> Modern Times
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
"What are you saying Tirath"
"I'm saying the truth aunty! I didn't have that line on my palm that stands for love".
"You are looking up and hiding your tears...I am feeling wounded".
Tirath looked at aunty and gave a faint smile.
"My dear son, this fake smile of yours is actually breaking my heart".
Now Tirath broke down. Tears kept flowing from his eyes. Sobbing, he raised his arm to wipe the water from his nose. Then aunty put her arms around him and said, "Should you care so much Tirath?"
"How much I loved her! But perhaps she did not love me. No I won't be able to say that too. She was very attached to me...to the children..."
"Whether she loved or not is difficult to decide".
Tirath went to the basin and washed his face, and when he returned he saw that his sister Rekha also was sitting next to aunt with her head lowered. Rekha wiped a tear from her eyes. Then aunty said, "My dear daughter, you must have come to know quite a while ago that your husband eyed your brother's wife".
Rekha nodded her head.
"Then my dear you should have warned your brother?"
"He also knew..." Rekha started sobbing now.
"Oh, Tirath? If that was the case then why did you not stop Jacky from coming home? Especially when he started becoming too modern? He changed himself from Jaikishin to Jacky".
Tirath looked up sadly and said, "These relationships cannot be stopped aunty. Instead they become deeper".
"You are mistaken son. Look at your cousin sister. She fell in love with a Punjabi neighbor who was a father of three children.
They got her married off quickly. Now see how happy she is with her husband".
"Aunty, just think of it, by stopping Jacky from coming home I would have been so unfair to my little sister Rekha..." Tirath voice resembled an echo from a cave.
Rekha gave a sob and grew quiet.
Aunty said, "So what would have happened? She would living here itself with her husband. Now she is facing difficult times, isn't it? But take my word that your wife Putli is definitely going to be miserable".
Tirath caught aunt by the arm and said, "Don't let out such a curse. Perhaps Putli's palm had such a love line because of which she got my support as well as Jacky's attachment to her..."
"My dear son Tirath I bow down to your simplicity but just think how your two little daughters would be married? Daughters of a mother who has eloped are never considered as loyal. Even though Sita who was kidnapped by Ravan she was not considered faithful by Ram. Otherwise under what conditions does anyone drive away a pregnant wife?"
"Just leave it all aunty. Today even if I destroy myself in sorrow the society will still hold me responsible for ill treating my wife".
"Brother I would also say that because my Jacky respected all women. It is only me who became a fool after marriage...But he did not love me any less. He only complained that I would get too angry. I don't know why I became such an angry type. When Jacky would relish all the tasty goodies sent by Putli Babhi I would fume with anger. It was my fault after all".
"Are you crazy Rekha? Any wife cannot tolerate her husband eyeing another woman. What is your fault in all this?"
After thinking a while aunty again said, "No my child, I was mistaken It was actually your fault because we women have to weigh everything carefully and act. We have to make hundreds of sacrifices to save the family honor".
Tirath said, "You have told me also that I should have weighed my steps carefully. This does not have to be anything to do with woman or man. I never ever thought that my coming late would hurt her so much".
Taking a deep breath aunty said, "Now that the birds have flown off you both have to think. In the meanwhile if anyone asks say that they have gone out. Rekha you also go and live in your house. Call a lady from the neighborhood to sleep with you in the night since you are alone".
Giving a false laugh Tirath said, "These relationships are such that one cannot think of Court, divorce and all that. She should have only waited till my daughters were married..."
Suddenly aunty shouted, "My dear Tirath, open your eyes...I am so frightened. She has become blind in love. You have to think of your daughters..."
"Arey aunty, oh oh...I have seen many such cases during my business. Innocent women get trapped by cunning men..."
There was a telegram after eight days - "Tirath I have realized my mistake. I wish to come back..."
Taking the telegram Tirath drove fast to aunty's house. Showing her the telegram he said, "Aunty my condition is like I am drowning in a sea of joy and sorrow".
For a long time aunty kept watching Tirath's face. She too was perhaps experiencing some disturbance. She couldn't smile and her thinking was confused. Finally she asked, "Will you allow her to come back home?"
Tirath's eyes were heavy and he nodded in affirmation. Then with wide eyes aunty asked, "Huh! So you will not throw her into the forest like the great Ram?"
Tirath kept on thinking something for a while. Finally he said, "First of all Ram was a law abiding man which I am not. I in fact feel that there is no 'I' in love. Secondly have we humans not progressed since Ramayana days? If the women and wives who are forcibly taken away during wars do not get any refuge then what will be the condition of society?"
Aunty held Tirath's face in her hands and kissing his forehead, said, "I don't understand what magic that Jacky has done on her that she left such a wonderful husband..."
Tirath realized that tears were flowing down aunt's cheeks; he raised his hand and told her, "See how clear the love line on my palm is. I don't know why I couldn't see it the other day".
There was a wonderful smile on aunt's tearful face. She said, "Will you still love Putli the same way as before?"
"Aunty in the world of love there is only giving. There is no account of receiving. I feel happy in loving Putli. If I sit down to think about her good and bad qualities a stone will appear in the flow of the waterfall of love and it will reduce to drops".
Looking at Tirath with wide teary eyes aunty said laughingly, "Let Putli come, I will see how many love lines are there on her palm. Perhaps your hand has the love line of only giving".
After some days when Putli returned from her travel aunty took Tirath aside and said, "I am feeling quite strange that your wife doesn't understand anything. Her character has been maligned so much because she eloped, and yet she is laughing and happy. Is she so stubborn?"
Tirath laughed aloud and called Putli. Aunty put a finger on her lips and looked quite surprised. Tirath said, "Putli, now clear all aunty's misunderstandings".
Putli kept smiling and looking at aunty. Then aunty said, "What misunderstandings?"
Putli said, "The misunderstanding that I had left my master and eloped with Jacky".
Aunty thoughtfully inquired, "Then you had not eloped...?"
Putli looked sideways at her husband and said, "I wanted to give him a shock".
"Why?" Aunt asked eagerly.
"Aunty, it is work, work and only work. After all life is also something. If he had to go out it was with friends. Why not me? When at home it is only business files. Is playing with children not more important than business? Now he is listening to everything. Otherwise he never paid any attention".
Hitting Putli's hand aunty said, "My dear you turned out quite a smart girl. But how come your sister-in-law too feels that Jacky is in love with you?"
Putli said, "Aunty I have a plutonic love for Jacky. This love is also valid in the world since ages. But an aware woman like would never ever sacrifice her husband's love for him".
Then aunt got up to leave. Taking a deep breath she said, "May you always be happy. But my dear girl you took a great risk. You are saved because it is a modern times; not the times of Ramayana.
- Translated by Arun Babani