Short Stories >> Vichoro >> Nanki
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
They ask Nanki, "Why do you go to the terrace every day?" She herself doesn't know the reason. What can she say? "Just like that."By saying this she would jump on the steps and a little before dark she reaches the terrace. She looks far away into the sky. A strange world is created between the roundness of the sky and settlements below. A house is created I that space without any pillars. Nanki feels herself as a newlywed bride in that house. There are four cots in that room. Her husband is on one cot, her mother-in-law on the second, her brother-in-law on the third and her sister-in-law is sleeping on the fourth one. She goes and sleeps with her mother-in-law. Her mother-in-law turns and says softly, "The lights are off. Get up and go and sleep with your husband. "After saying no for a while, Nanki, like an obedient child goes and sleeps with her husband, but thinking that both, her mother-in-law and sister-in-law may be awake makes her feel shy and awkward and inspite of putting the sheet on herself she feels like burying herself in the ground.
Newan says, "Oh, you had asked me to get you ribbons which I have kept in a glass in the kitchen. Did you take it? Your plaits are empty, why haven't you worn them?" Nanki puts her finger on his lips and then she whispers in his ear, "Dadi may hear us. She has worn the ribbons. I told her it was mine and she asked me from where I got it. When I put my head down she said "Do you only have the right on Newan?"
"It's okay; I'll get another one tomorrow".
Standing on the edge of the terrace Nanki's hand automatically went to the end of her plait. Alas that other ribbon never came. Her plait is empty even today. The world of the past is still before Nanki. Like a full Moon in the sky.
One night Newan told her, "You are made of ice".
"Not at all. Look, my body id like burning flames. The whole day I keep thinking that I have fever".
"Go and see that sister-in-law of yours living in the next house and how she lives with her husband. You don't even have love. Okay put your arm around".
"No No I'm afraid. First put the sheet on. What Amma, or Dadi or whoever maybe awake?"
"So what? You have married me not eloped".
"No Baba, I'm shaking in fear".
"Just see how cold your body has become. That is what I said that you are made of ice".
Nanki feels some kind of helplessness and a kind of fear within her chest. Her hand automatically moves towards her chest and she bursts out laughing. But two tear drops fall from her eyes. Nanki looks up at the sky. It is evening and now they and those four young bachelors must have taken their bath and must be flying in the sky. The drops of water must be falling from their clothes and towels. But why is it that we cannot see these four year old celibate children but only the drops of water fall in the evening from above!
Chhee, it must be some fable and those celibates will always remain four year olds must also be a fable. How come the doctor certified me as a complete woman? Newan has reported in the court that I am not even a woman. Oh my God, how can Newan do such things! It is all the fault of my sister-in-law.
In the grey mist of the sky the image of the next door house appears again. The sister-in-law lying on the cot, her perfumed clothes. The silk bed sheet. Garlands of pearls on the doors and windows. A big long mirror and near it, on the glass shelf there are kept boxes of powder, cream, perfume and kohl.
Newan is hitting his sister-in-law and telling her, "Get up now. Nanki has come".
Sister-in-law gets up and makes Nanki sit by her side, saying, "Why you girl, don't you like your husband?" Nanki gives a jerk within. Is it possible that a woman will not like her husband? How can I even dare not to like Newan!
Sister-in-law again hit her, "Why dear, where have you disappeared? Your husband comes here every day and sighs and tells me "You dress up and put make up all for my brother! And there is Nanki who grew old as soon as we got married. She's as cold as ice".
Nanki would have cried if she could help it. She would hide her face in her sister-in-law's lap. But Newan is saying," You may do anything but this ice will never melt!"
Nanki shivers. This distrust! Finding fault with me for everything! Oh God. Why don't I die! After that incident Nanki fell so ill that her mother was urgently called for by sending her a telegram. Nanki cried and sobbed so much in her mother's lap that her mother said, "Are you mad? I have come to take you."Daughter raised her head and asked, "Really!"
Mother answered, "Really" and she took her back with her. The daughter started recovering slowly. But when they received a lawyer's notice that Newan wished to leave Nanki because she is not a complete woman, her mother fainted.
The neighborhood blamed her for it, "She would have learned to face the difficulties. Why did you bring her back with yourself?"
One day her father was very sad and he went to visit the lawyer. He explained everything to him and told him, "Tell your client to take a separate house and see how my competent daughter will keep him very happy".
The lawyer said, "This is the work of a social worker not of a lawyer".
The wise father was disappointed because he remembered the doctor's certificate. Showing him he said, "See this is the proof that my daughter.. What can I say.. I feel so ashamed to tell you but I'm helpless.." But as he was explaining to the lawyer that the girl is absolutely healthy, the lawyer said, "You have brought a false certificate in order to defeat the case." The honest father's face became very angry. Controlling himself he said, "Believe me I have brought a true certificate in order to answer the false allegations".
The lawyer said without any emotion, "Listen I'm a principled person. I represent the opposite party. I have to be true to the one who is paying me".
The father was now really angry. He said, "Well done lawyer saab! Your principles teach you to be true to money and not to the truth. What if your daughter was in place of my daughter.."
But the lawyer answered, "I don't know what you are saying. We are not like you to get our daughters married in poor families where there is no separate room for the husband and wife".
The principled father returned home and Nanki was divorced. Now Nanki doesn't go up on the terrace and neither does she look up at the sky but whomsoever she looks at melts away.
- Translated by Arun Babani