Short Stories >> Atam Vishwas >> Sacrifice (Qurbani)
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
The doctor said that Geeta had cancer. Ratan had tears in his eyes. Was Geeta alive only for a few days? Rattan forgot all about his business. All the time he only sat beside her. The scooter outside had gathered rust. The relatives began whispering. Geeta's mother took her son-in-law aside and said, "Son, the children will not live on water only". But even then, everyone saw Ratan sit beside his wife's bed. Friends came and said either laughingly or tauntingly, "People grieve at the grave but you are grieving on your living wife Geeta".
Rattan consoled himself, "These friends do not realise that this palace is soon going to turn into ruins and they also do not know that the light which is burning in this palace today is nothing but my body and my mind's light".
When Geeta heard his thoughts, her eyes shed tears. She softly told him, "No, Ratan this is light belongs to somebody else".
Ratan smiled, "After reading so, many love letters which idiot will say that this light is not mine but somebody else's?"
Geeta took her husband's hand and with both her hands pressed it to her cheek saying, "My soul does not have any courage to tell lies at this moment".
"Then who is asking you the difference between truth and falsity at this moment?"
"My own mind is asking it".
"Consider that I may be upset but I don't have any reason for that. I have always received infinite love from you and I have always considered myself fortunate. I don't know whether any one else has loved you more than me".
"I agree that nobody else has loved me more than you have but a sentence from a song is so artistic that one feels as if one has heard only that sentence all life".
Ratan slowly released his hand from Geeta's hand. Wiping Geeta's tears with his hand he took a deep breath but ripples that were created by a stone thrown in the pond of the mind had now spread throughout the body and were eager to break the limits of the body. In the middle of the night Geeta felt someone kissing her foot. Geeta got up and kissed his forhead. Seeing the condition of his face Geeta was frightened, spreading out her weak arms she said, "Come closer".
The bangles on Geeta's pale arms were shining more than usual in the light that was coming in from the street lamps. Geeta brought her arm forward and started rubbing his head. The sound of her bangles made Ratan turn cold in his body. Playing with the bangles on her arm he said, "Their sound is like that of the Ganga flowing in the night...but...there is no Ganga water here".
He gave a sob while saying this and as he got up, Geeta held him by the hand and said, "I take back my words".
There was a faint and weak smile on Ratan's face which fell in the dim light. "What can be done now? My eyes have seen everything..."
"But I have not done any such thing which should make me feel that I am hiding something from you".
Ratan gave a sharp and bitter laugh. "Same letters in which you loved somebody else and I simply watched like a fool".
Rattan thought that she would scream at the opening of this secret but nothing like that happened. Geeta was lying down quietly.
Ratan removed a bundle of letters from his pocket and said, "Take these letters. Take them with you". Then Ratan left the room in such a way as if there was no relationship left with her.
A week passed by and Geeta was still alive. Now only Sharda and the children were seen sitting on all four corners. Ratan went to work every day on his scooter. In the evening there would be bundles of notes under Geeta's pillow but she did not have any strength left to lift the pillow and see how big the pile had become.
Even after the energy gone from every part of her body, Geeta's voice was still strong and the paleness on her face could not be considered as dull.
That night Geeta saw two shadows in the passage. She was awake for a long time. Suddenly the light of her room was switched on. Ratan asked, "O you are still awake?' His voice was very clear.
"Did Sharda sleep or not?"
"Am I keeping a watch if Sharda has slept or not?"
Geeta was quiet. Ratan was about to leave when Geeta said, "Today is perhaps my last night. Will you come here?"
Rattan came reluctantly. Geeta gestured towards the bed. He sat down.
"Today Ammi has gone home. Only Sharda is staying here?"
Ratan sat with folded arms as if the question did not concern him. For some moments they both were quiet. It was cold outside that is why the doors and windows were closed and the light of the room appeared brighter than usual.
Geeta said, "Will you bring my letters?"
For a moment Ratan's face stretched but he got up and brought the letters.
Geeta removed one letter and asked Ratan to read it.
You are a stable stranger but when I, an outsider, came to your village, I lost a lot. But how can I say that I only lost something, I gained a lot too. Yes, I must say that what I lost does not have a concrete form and neither what I have gained has any concrete form. Even then, the memories are so concrete that I get lost in them. That full Moon night when you had said, "You must always wear these clothes". I liked that gentle style. And that morning when I was drying my hair you had said, "A poet perhaps has described lightning over dark clouds in this way..." And that look which I got after my answer. The answer was so simple although the question was difficult, I felt the answer to be very ordinary. "Truly, nature in a virgin form". I don't find it as beautiful as the flowers in an artistic form, decorated in the garden. On top of that, I would get such a wonderful look from my beloved! That look has entered in some corner of my heart. Every time I feel like the moonlight is playing in the sky and I am intoxicated.
Rattan did not read further and he sat down. Suddenly there was a sharp smile on his face and the next moment he pursed his lips tightly and threw it out. After a while he said, "Why all this now that the game is getting over?"
"With one game getting over, simultaneously another game is beginning, and in all these years I have just learned one thing that there is progress in this world only because there is feeling hidden in every human being that the thorns that pricked him in his feet in my life, he should somehow get them out of others' lives".
"Should I switch off the light?"
"Let it be on. Today I feel like watching your face with all my heart".
"Now you need me?"
"Who said that I never needed you?"
"Today there is a confusion in your respect in your addressing me".
"I have no confusion in me".
"Really?" Ratan gave a jerk. "Are you the same who said one night, 'In our tradition there was born a Gandhari whose husband was blind and so she lived her life with her eyes covered...' Are you the same woman who took pride in Gandhari?"
"But there is a need of another truth in life too...Ratan you are like pure water to me who is flowing in every cell of my body".
"And that lover?"
"Yes. That is a gulp of alcohol".
"A women is prohibited from alcohol".
"After paying for alcohol nobody can stop any one".
"Traditions of this land can stop you!"
"This land also has the tradition of Radha. My dear, this land has as many traditions as the colours of life". "But accepting such a big truth is like walking on sword's edge for me".
"Isn't your relationship with Sharda like lying on a bed of arrows for a dying Geeta?"
"Don't talk rubbish..." saying this, Ratan lifted his hand to hit her, but his hand stopped there. At the door, in front, stood beautiful Sharda!
In the morning when the police were writing a report in Ratan's house, the whole neighbourhood came to know that Geeta, tired of her cancer, had consumed a bottle poison in the night and had sacrificed her life.
After the police left, Sharda came in and quietly covered her sister Geeta's blackened face with a cloth.
- Translated by Arun Babani