Short Stories >> Yugantar >> Bombay Girl (Bumbaiwari)
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
Handing the child to her mother, Shaila said, "Here, take your Sonu".
Before the mother could even take the child, the younger sister caught the child and ran away.
"Oh...oh...oh..." shouting, Shaila ran with one foot in her slipper and dragging herself on the other, and snatched the child from her sister. She said, "You fool, why did you remove him from the lap kart?"
"Is this a lap kart or a tray? Sonu is not a cake to be kept in a tray". Saying this she again snatched the child away. The younger sister was not the only one to pick up Sonu; here the cousins, relatives and neighbours were each picking the child one by one.
Shaila was very confused and she listlessly hugged her mother and elder sister. Her aunty asked, "Shevi, why hasn't your husband come?"
"He will come in a week or so, but Bhabhi, please call me Shaila and not Shevi as Sonu's dad gets angry".
Aunty shook her body and hands and said loudly, "Let Sonu's father come here. Now he has just sent you to show off your Bombay colours in Ajmer".
Shaila frowned. Aunty lifted Shaila's chin upwards and said, "Don't take it to heart my dear. We shall surely call you Shaila and if you wish we will even call your Lalu as Laila". Everybody gave out a loud laughter at this.
Shaila picked up the lap kart and put Sonu on it. Her elder sister said, "Shevi, oh, Shaila, this lap kart is like a half-car without wheels".
Again, everyone started laughing. Shaila started kissing her son. Her aunt said, "Bring him to me, let me also give him a few kisses".
"Why not me?"
Aunty pulled both her cheeks and said, "Here you are, first you".
Around 4 pm when aunty was ready to leave for Satsang, Shaila brought out a perfume bottle from her big expensive handbag and sprayed a little perfume on her aunt. Handing over the bottle to her Shaila said, "Bhabhi, keep this botte with you and spray a little on yourself whenever you leave the house".
"Oh, let it be, you Bombay girl! If you had gone to London and America, you would probably have suggested to spread the perfume in the whole house". handing the perfume bottle to Shaila, aunt dragged her feet and went out of the house.
Making a face Shaila said, "This morning, when kissing me, there was such a foul smell of sweat from aunty...! These village women..."
Mother's gaze stopped for a few moments on Shaila and with the same gaze, she said, "Remove the kid's underwear and see if he has messed up. I cannot understand how to open this underwear. This doesn't even look like one".
Shaila said, "Just don't worry at all. Even if this underwear is on him for twenty-four hours, he will not mess anybody".
Her younger sister who was combing her hair before the mirror, said, "She is free from sprinkling rose water".
The mother was surprised and she stood watching with her finger on her chin. Shaila said, "I did not come here for so many months precisely because of all this. Just see how many things I have to tag along". Saying this, she opened the cover of a big bag.
Every member moved closer to have a look at the treasures in the bag. The mother said, "So many milk boxes! Is milk not available here?"
"No Baba!" Slapping her hands Shaila proclaimed, "I only feed him one brand of milk".
The younger sister mocked and said, "Do you get such a brand anywhere apart from Bombay?"
Everybody began laughing but Shaila was not embarrassed and she proudly said, "Come and live in Bombay and see for yourself. Then you will realise the difference between here and there".
The elder sister said arrogantly, "But who will even come to you in Bombay! Only the foolish will come and be insulted". Shaila frowned and said, "Whom have we insulted?"
Hemi raised her hand and said, "As if you had cared for my sister-in law! The lady from my in-laws had come to your door and you immediately ponced on her as to why she had not informed you of her coming, through a telegram!"
"Didi, what are you saying? I was right. Had she informed us we would have gone to receive her at the station, isn't it?"
Hemi said, "You have a small kid to look after and your husband is too busy with his job at the airport, then who would have gone to receive her? And moreover, she was not alone. She was with her husband..."
"Didi! But what did I tell her? I had just started eating when they arrived. I should have known before. I am the only one at home to eat and she arrived with her husband and child. So, I had to cook again for three people. Above that, I had my Kitty party..."
Hemi angrily said, "So what happened? Here we welcome guests with open hearts even if they arrive at mid-night".
Shaila replied in an equally harsh tone, "No, that doesn't happen with us. We friends too first call before meeting each other. One may be at home sometimes or not at other times".
"Yes, yes, we know how you Bombay ladies are continuously roaming on the roads. Leaving kids to maids you women are always on the move, either at Kitty parties, or gambling...all the time roaming..."
Then the mother intervened and said, "Hemi, leave her. You have caught hold of her as soon as she has come...'
Hemi said, "Mummy, whatever you say, but the fact is that Bombay people are so indifferent. Very indifferent!"
"So, today we should leave her alone to get over her Bombay attitude, isn't it?" the younger sister said, winking at her elder sister and looking at her mother.
Sulking, Shaila went off to another room. In the evening aunty returned, calling out, "Shevi...Shevi".
The younger sister came and stood before her with her hands behind her.
Aunty said, "Why don't you answer? Where is Shevi?"
The younger sister laughed and said, Bhabhi, again you called her Shevi?" Then, rolling her eyes mischievously and keeping her hands on her waist she said, "Madam Bhabhi Saheba! Your beloved Shailadevi has gone for a movie".
"Has she taken her kid along too?" aunt asked.
"Huh!" the younger sister burst out laughing and couldn't stop herself.
Then she said, "How can she take her child to the movies? Madam Shailadevi says that like us, the Bombay people do not carry their children on their waists and go for outings".
Aunty tried to recollect something and then said, "She has brought with her that Lip tray or something...then why will she carry the kid on her waist. And above all, we are so many of us here to look after her child. The girl has come to parents home after so long. So, let her move about and enjoy herself..."
At that moment Shaila herself came in. Aunt asked her, "My dear, you did not go for the movie?"
"Bhabhi, I see many films at home on the videos in Bombay. Now I had gone visiting the neighbourhood. They had all invited me. In Bombay everybody keeps their flats locked. They open only after ringing the bell. Here, all the doors are open".
Aunty took the kid from her and started kissing him. She asked, "What is his mouth smelling of?"
"I have fed him a tonic" Shaila said.
"Tonic? Why Shevi? The kid doesn't look weak. I'll throw a spit so that he is protected from any evil eye".
The younger sister was in a jovial mood, she said, "Bhabhi, as they make the camel drink too much water so that he is not thirsty for six months in the desert heat".
Shaila was furious and she said, "So he is a camel? A camel?"
The younger sister tried to control her laughter with her hand and then aunty took the child and said, "Call him a camel, a bull...or whatever...But this donkey will not be aware of anything..."
Now, the younger sister was encouraged even more. Picking Sonu on her shoulder, she went around and swirling and laughing, saying, "Sonu is my camel. Sonu is my bull. Sonu is my donkey..."
Shaila was frightened and she shouted, "He might get a head - reeling. Put him here..."
Aunty interfered and said, "Leave her Shaila. Let her play and dance with him. Nothing will happen to him. First you tell me, why have you left your hair open in the evening? Have you taken a late bath?"
Smoothening her hair, Shaila said, "No Bhabhi, in Bombay, we ladies or girls shampoo our hair and leave it open and then go out".
Imitating her, the younger sister said, "Oh, in Bombay the ladies roam around on the roads with open hair!"
Aunty said "Now leave all these jokes aside. Bombay or Ajmer, how does it matter? Both cities are in India isn't it?"
The younger sister said, "But this Bombay girl doesn't understand that".
Aunty said, "You are a fool. She was born and brought up here in Ajmer and she's married in Bombay for two years. So, has she become a stranger now? Today so many Sindhi girls are getting married in London, America and Japan. Every city has a different culture, so do they become strangers?"
Shaila said, "Yes...Well said Bhabhi! This village - girl's brain does works here and there".
"Again, you called me villager-girl. Villager!" the sister was furious.
"Even you then should not mock your sister by calling her Bombay- girl" aunt scolded the younger one.
Then the younger sister knelt down on her knees and rubbing her nose with her finger she said, "I repent. I shall never call you Bombay - girl again. Okay?"
Shaila pulled both the cheeks of her sister and said, "Yes, even I shall never call you a village - girl again!"
- Translated by Arun Babani