Short Stories >> Nakhreliyun >> Light (Roshni)

Short Stories

Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani

I have never understood how a discrepancy arose between my name and my life!

My actual name is 'Khushali', but since I would make everybody laugh during childhood, I was simply called 'Khushi'. But the sorrows in my life have put my name to shame! I thought of not telling anybody as they would start crying. But one feels contentment in feeling the pain of another. In the last four years I have never shared this with anybody, but today I feel like opening up my heart to the entire world. Perhaps yesterday's small incident is the reason for this sudden change within me.

Yesterday, my old friend Saroj had come over. Oh God, how restless she has made me and gone. She has opened up my old wound.

It was four in the evening when I was preparing tea in the kitchen. Suddenly there was a knock on the door and opening it I saw Saroj. I was very emotional. She said, "Khushi!" and gave me a tight hug. Entering my house, she told my mother-in-law, "Ammi, I have to attend a friend's wedding. Please allow Khushi to accompany me to the bazar to buy her a gift".

Something big. Yes, it was something as big as the sky. Ammi permitted me to go with Saroj. There was some in magic in Saroj's talking, otherwise Ammi doesn't like me stepping out of the house. I also don't like to go out after so many years. But I had met this dear friend after many years, so how could I refuse her this small favour?

It was eight months ago that I had last stepped out of the house. Moving through the bazar area with crowds and people running about, my condition was like those village girls who come excitedly here to a Fair (Mela).

The breeze swayed and touched my sari delicately and my heart was smiling.

Saroj came and sat in a park. Like the children on the swings my heart touched the sky and came back down on the green grass. Suddenly the bird remembered the cage. I said, "Saroj this is not the sari shop. Where have you brought me?"

Saroj had her arms around her knees and was watching me. Smiling she said, "Sari was just an excuse. Actually, I have brought you here to have an intimate chat with you".

I stood up, "Saroj, this is cheating Ammi. Falsity in my life..."

Saroj shook her body and aid, "Okay you may go away and hurt my heart. You truthful person!"

"What is this way of pulling somebody with a rope that you have learnt?" I said, and sat down. But my mind was on my home, where my husband had returned form office and was standing at the kitchen door, listening to his mother. She was telling him, "Today she has gone with a friend to the bazar to buy a sari. I have permitted her. What could I tell her in front of strangers? If she herself was smart she could have excused herself with a headache. But how can a vagabond of a girl have such a talent? Her family has not taught her to live respectfully".

"Why have you become quiet?" Saroj pinched my knee. "Are you remembering the swimming in the sea of Karachi during your childhood?"

Oh God! What beautiful memories of the past Saroj is playing with it. But actually, I was remembering my husband's face. He had grown silent listening about my dumbness from his mother. "Arey. Forget the past. Sit with me for a few minutes and dream some happy dreams". Listening to this endearing call from Saroj, I helplessly returned from home. I said, "How did you know about me after so many years Saroj?"

"Yesterday I met your sister suddenly in a local train. She told me that you never go out anywhere. That is why I got ready and immediately came to you. Nowadays one doesn't get to meet anybody at home. Poor things are not to be blamed. A human being needs society. In Sindh the entire neighbourhoods were of Sindhis, so we were warm in our homes. We did not know of any cold. But here we have become lonely. It seems as if there is some lack in the mind".

"Lack!" I suddenly caught her arm and said, "Exactly! The word 'lack' is absolutely correct. This lack in my heart is larger than the vacuum of the sky".

"How can it not be large?" Saroj came closer to me, "Only one room in the house and no partition too for you sit in privacy with your husband and share your heart..."

I found it surprising that Saroj could see me so closely in a few minutes. I said, "Saroj, Ammi doubts me that I will complain about her to my husband. But to tell you the truth I would never complain about her to my husband. I know why she doesn't like me happy with my husband. The poor thing had the joy of being with her own husband only for a few months. I am ready to do everything to make her happy. But I don't understand that inspite of suffocating all my feelings I am still unable to make someone happy. Now even my husband has gone a long distance from me..."

Seeing the sadness in my eyes, Saroj too became sad. Tears began flowing down her eyes. She said, "Khushi, in the desire to make others happy you have made yourself so sad. Take my advice and go out somewhere with your husband".

I burst out laughing. Saroj's tears flowed to her cheeks, "Khushi your laughter too has become so weak. Have you seen yourself in the mirror?"

I tried so hard to keep smiling but Saroj's words "Khushi you will die" broke that effort in a single stroke. Tears flowed down from my eyes. I said, "So what if I die? I have atleast not sinned by separating a mother from her son. Doesn't matter if a life is sacrificed to keep up the respect and prestige".

"Khushi! Khushi!" Saroj shook my arm". Then why did I come to know of you after so many years!"

Oh God! Saroj had to see this too that I had a bout of cough at that time.

Saroj frighteningly said, "Khushi this looks like a cough of cancer".

I controlled my cough and said, "The preparations are on for sending me to the sanitorium in few days. I hope I don't return back from there".

Saroj burst out crying. "Why did I come to know of you!"

Allah, my friend was totally devastated! She had so much affection for me! Before marriage I too would get sad regarding other people's sorrow. I too was fond of others. But now I don't even care for my own self. The other day Ammi finally told my husband, "Now you better get married again. You will gain nothing out of this dead body".

I silently heard everything and wasn't even sad.

"Khushi get up, let us go". Saroj said.

"Yes, let us go" I said and got up quickly and took a few steps. Saroj got up slowly, took a deep breath and stood.

I said, "Come on Saroj".

She laughed and said, "Is the bird so comfortable in the cage that it is so eager to go there?"

"There is no comfort but certainly I have a lot of fear".

Saroj calmly said, "I am realising today that there is definitely a satisfaction in bearing pain, otherwise how could a person like you who ran about in Hawabunder, jumped into moving buses and trams has now suffocated herself with rope of tradition and norms of society around her neck?"

I said, "Saroj, had you been in my place you too would have sacrificed yourself in the name of truth".

"Me!" Saroj said, "I would have freed myself from the chains of false principles and I would have got into the waves of life's movements, understood.?"

I again thought of home and was frightened. I said, "Saroj, atleast buy the sari".

Saroj laughed and said, "I told you so that sari was just an excuse".

"No Saroj, Ammi will ask thousands of questions like, "Which shop did you buy the sari? What was the colour? What was the price?' "You also tell her a thousand lies".

"Lies! I never tell lies".

"Who says that you don't lie?"

I was disturbed at this question from Saroj.

Saroj narrowed her eyes and said, "You have always been lying to everybody that you are all well, that your desires are being met. The biggest lie you have told yourself that you don't have any desire to live".

"True Saroj, I really don't have any desire to live".

"So? Why are there tears in your eyes?"

I don't know how carried this bitter truth in my heart and reached home.

I fearlessly told Ammi that I will not talk about the sari and bearing the sharp looks from husband I came and lay down on the bed! All this seems like a story.

It is now dawn. The bandage that Saroj had removed from my wound is now at a distance. The wound is open and as the breeze touches it, it feels comforted. Now I am sleepy. I feel as I had not slept for so many years. Today I shall sleep to my heart's content. But today a lamp is lit in my heart. How will I be able to sleep in that light!

- Translated by Arun Babani

The End


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