Short Stories >> Yugantar >> Self Respect (Sauman Eman)
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
Sindhu's large eyes are like two open stages of a drama. The drama that has gone on in her life. That drama has been enacted by her itself. There is an immense ocean of understanding swimming in her eyes. But her life was a picture of absolute thoughtlessness. And now it looks as if Sindhu's eyes are like open doors from which somebody has stolen everything...
She was saying, "Didi, I don't know what drama Nature has played with me. Now that I am sure I am going to die through this operation, I have got this senseless desire to meet Arun atleast once..."
I was quiet.
A big wave of many feet high rose from the ocean of her two eyes...She pursed her lips to encounter that wave...
Wiping her tears, she said, "Didi, I am sure that you must be laughing at me inwardly".
It was natural to feel like laughing at Sindhu's desire. Now that she is going to die, what is the use of meeting Arun? "Arun has left all his past chapters behind and set up his house and has become a big man..."
Yearning and trembling, Sindhu said, "I only wish to ask Arun that after loving me so much, why did you destroy me...? Just two days before the wedding he wrote to me - "You desired cars and luxurious. You don't love me but you love cars and luxuries...This marriage cannot take place..."
Again, a storm was visible in Sindhu's big beautiful eyes. Suddenly they were full of sorrow as if the Panchayat have forcibly pulled away the bride sitting at her wedding rituals, and they have destroyed all the flower arrangements, decorations and the doors of her heart.
"Then, why did you not reply to that letter?" I asked softly
"I had written that reply...That half-written reply is still kept with me...Had you been present then, this matter would not have been messed up..."
"Perhaps..." I thought to myself that my Subhav had never mentioned to me about Sindhu's proposal. They got me married and sent me abroad and for the next five years I did not even see Subhav's face! I was totally unaware, living abroad, about their love stories that took place.
Giving me a hopeful look Sindhu said, "Didi, I was just a pretty twenty-three-year-old girl. Today I have a daughter who is almost nineteen..."
I remembered her twenty-three-year-old face. True, she was quite beautiful, though a little plump even then.
"Didi, Arun went around with me for years and yet, at the time of the marriage this is what he wrote? Had never understood my mind at all? Inspite of all my family opposition I had promised to stand by him. And he simply threw me and my boat right into the middle of the ocean!"
"He was himself also with you in that boat..."
"He was a swimmer, so he swam through, but I drowned. I have drowned so much that the water is filled within me. But I am still struggling in some hope. Only once. Just once! Arun should just come once and tell me - "Sindhu, I have destroyed you. You were not at fault..."
I took a deep breath and said to myself, 'What a strange desire in a human being to be regarded as innocent!'
Sindhu said, "One of his friend's wife even told me that perhaps Arun has gone astray. But I told her that it is not his fault, he is young...But his soul and mind are with me".
"Why? Sindhu why were you mistaken that the soul does not need the body? Why did you not stop him from going astray by getting married to him?"
I told her this without any thinking.
"I was ready Didi. I only had told him that my sister too would live with me after marriage...We would continue staying in the Bombay house itself. I told him that he too could bring his mother, sister and younger brother and get them to stay with us. They could leave Sindhunagar. His job too was in Bombay city..."
"What did he say?"
"At first he was angry saying that he would not like to stay with his in-laws. And become a live-in-son-in-law. But then, after a little persuasion he had agreed".
"And Bhabhi too had agreed?"
"Bhabhi was very close to me. I still wear the saris given by her with so much affection. There was no question of her agreeing or disagreeing..."
I grew numb for a few moments. I have stayed away from Bhabhi for many years, but I know that Bhabhi is attached to every single stone of Sindhunagar. How did Arun and Sindhu even presume that Bhabhi would simply leave Sindhunagar at their behest? But what is the point of thinking about something that did not happen at all? But Sindhu was very enthusiastically busy in turning the pages of her past.
"Didi, the responsibility of my younger sister was on me. My parents had passed away early and I had begun earning. So, it was my responsibility to bring up my sister and get her married. But I was advancing in age..."
"Alas! How I wish there was a rule in the country that young girls did not have to make sacrifices for bringing up their siblings..."
"Perhaps the fear of growing older made me pull the chains of a running train...The train did stop at a station but a station that was totally deserted. Actually, it was not even a station. I got down at that deserted station on an excuse of a falling dowry bag...Arun had simply crumbled the marriage plan. At such a time I grew adamant and I announced that I was prepared to get married to any blind, crippled or lame boy on condition that he would take up the responsibility of putting up my sister too in the house with me..."
I was simply staring at the stormy emotions of that beautiful Sindhu of those days. My heart beat grew fast. I asked, "And then?"
"Then? My friend's dark brother came into the picture and I instantly agreed..."
"Wow! Sindhu, how did you even do that? You loved my nephew and you married somebody else. You should have had patience".
"Yes, I could have had patience that one day you would return from abroad, you would have made us understand...Then, perhaps all these events would not occurred in my life. I wish Arun had not done all that...Stubbornness during youth can be quite nasty. Then just see the morals of a woman's heart...I myself went to Sindhunagar with my wedding card. But I just handed it over to a neighbouring lady and told her to deliver to Arun's house immediately. The neighbour then, opening her back door, pointed out and said, "There is Arun, sitting under the tree..."
Saying this, "There is Arun, sitting under the shade of the tree..." Sindhu started sobbing.
Stopping for a few moments, she continued, "Didi, My heart wrenches thinking of that sight...My beloved was sitting under a tree...One who resided in my heart forever...Even then I did not run towards him...Looking at him so forlorn, even then I did not go near him. How did I become so cruel?"
"My two maternal uncles had gone to him two days before the wedding. They asked him the reason for calling off our wedding. He told them that he did not want to tell them the reason..."
"Won't this masculine arrogance make me cruel...? But today I think that, Alas, I should have gone and sat with him that day. I should have told him that Dear Krishna; your Radha is here. Play a melody on your flute so that my mind which is troubled with pride should become calm...I have started doubting you because of your letter...I am stuck in so much muck...At that time perhaps he would have burnt all my wedding cards....my false and stupid marriage cards...And he would have said, "Sindhu, when we had exchanged garlands that we had removed from Shiv-Parvati idols, and we had laughed, weren't we wedded then?"
These words of Sindhu created a turmoil within me, but I kept quiet.
"Didi, but at that time I did not do anything. He kept sitting under the tree and swallowing the sorrow of my insult, I came back...One day before getting married Dharmu, a few of Arun's friend came home. They said, "Arun is totally shattered, Sindhu. We cannot see him in so much pain..."
I told them, "What can be done now?'
"We will kidnap you from you wedding ceremony".
I became furious and said, "Have you all forgotten, staying in Sindhunagar, that you are all Sindhis and not hooligans...? Now you have steeped so low, to such tactics?"
"Say what you may. We will not leave you..."
"Why, isn't there any police in this country?"
"Didi, I sent them away with this threat".
"Sindhu, why did you do this? Why didn't you realise that the friends must have taken such a step because Arun must have gone through too much pain".
"But Didi, I was totally blind. I was not true to myself. I told myself that once Arun has fallen from my heart, that's all. Nothing could be done...And I went off towards some dark jungle, shutting my eyes to light. On my first night, on my wedding bed, I heard, "Listen Sindhu, don't be shy. You are my wife. I did not spare my Bhabhi; then how will I spare you?" Oh Didi, My Arun was a pure soul. And this Dharmu...? What more can I tell you about Dharmu's immoral thoughts? Many unfortunate girls had gone through his hands before my marriage to him..."
"Again, your mind is overwhelmed Sindhu. Don't cry. What has passed is past".
"No Didi, I have thought a lot. My mind is adamant. I just feel that I must see him atleast once before dying..."
Didi asked, "If I show you his face from far off...Will that do?"
"No Didi". Sindhu pleaded with Didi, holding both her hands. "First, you get him to get rid of any hatred towards me. He considers me guilty. He has always complained to my friends that I desired cars and luxurious.... But I tell you the fact that it was never so. This was just an ego-clash between him and me. He was proud of his personality and I was proud of my status. My own house, my good job, good furniture, classy relatives, even though I had no parents. But I had rich paternal and maternal grand- parents who also cared for me..."
Didi took a deep breath.
"Yes, Didi, you sighed because we both misunderstood our egos for self-respect and did not fulfil our relationship of love..."
Didi said, "Sindhu, even today you are not willing to fulfil your relationship of love".
"Didi, if that was so then why would I be so keen on meeting him during these last hours?"
"Sindhu, you did not get married but atleast you remained a friend. He got married and he has a grown-up son. He is living a happy married life. You want to meet him during your last moments to clear the curtain of self-respect and self-pride and show him the clear Moon of your love. What will be the outcome of that?"
"What can be the outcome Didi? I will not be around, so what disturbance can happen in his happy life?"
"Sweetheart, you don't understand. What if this emotional man gets disturbed remembering your true love?"
"Didi, for what had I kept alive this flame of hope?"
Didi saw that Sindhu's head had turned to one side and there were tears flowing from the corners of her eyes. When Didi got up to leave, she realised that her sari pallu was in Sindhu's grip.
Crying, Sindhu asked, "Didi, then should I carry this misunderstanding with me to the other world?"
Didi caressed her head and said, "What if Arun leaves his wife because of this misunderstanding? What if he rejects his son?"
"Oh, no...no...no. Dharmu always hated his son. He again and again accused me that he must be Arun's son...Didi what are these men like? Okay then, I consent to Arun's misunderstanding. I am as it is dying. Cancer spares nobody...Then why should I disrupt his family life..."
Didi saw that Sindhu's face glowed with a light of goodness. Didi bent down and kissed Sindhu's forehead and got up and slowly went away. This time Sindhu readily allowed her sari pallu to slip through her hands and her head too slipped from the pillow.
- Translated by Arun Babani