Short Stories >> Atam Vishwas >> Self Confidence (Atam Vishwas)

Short Stories

Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani

Sitting in a comfortable position, with one leg over the other, Mohan could visualise his life in the smoke from his cigarette. Much of his life had passed by and now it had stopped at a strange junction.

Last night Mohan had actually hit his Veena and his mother had entered his room and dragged him away.

Mother told him, "Son, even the trees of Ajmer had warned you that this Khadi-clad, simple girl of Ajmer was not suited to you. But you were stubborn, and had said, "How did I open so many shops in Manila when I had only a thousand rupees in my pocket? Now I shall cast that same magic on Veena too in such away that within a year she will turn from old-fashioned Veena to Madam Veena".

Dusting the ash from his cigarette, Mohan took another puff. In the swirling circles of the smoke he could see Veena with long black hair, worshipping the Sun. On seeing Mohan, she had given him such an attractive smile which was influenced by the Sun, that it entered deep into his heart.

On the first night of their wedding when Mohan looked into Veena's eyes, he could not see that look. "Where are you Veenu? I have come from so far off, from Manila for you. But where is that look which you gave me the first time when you were worshipping the Sun?" At that time the same attractive Veena raised her face and touching Mohan's lip she said, "At that time you had not had any alcohol".

"Right. I had drunk the light which was spread. on your face".

"You have my promise that you will never drink again".

For a while they both were quiet. Finally, Mohan spoke and like Veena, he touched her lips and holding her hand with his other hand, he said, "What if I teach you also to drink in Manila?"

"This will not happen".

"And if it happens? Even then you will not stop me from drinking?"

"How will I stop you? I will not be able to".

That night had passed off so happily. That native but educated Veena from Ajmer. Her entire body was alive. I had experienced all the pleasures of the world.

The cigarette had almost burnt his fingers. He stood up and went into his mother's temple where he sat down quietly on a low stool.

"Amma, what were you telling me last night?"

"What was I saying? I don't remember now. Now leave me early in the morning. See, I have undressed these idols. Let me finish bathing them".

Holding his mother's wrist Mohan said, "First you put on clothes on your son who has become totally naked. Last night you had asked me why I was stubborn about changing Veena into Veena madam in twelve months".

"Yes. I had said that".

"At that moment did you not think that I made her Veena madam from Veena or not?"

"Yes Baba, you made her. God knows what magic you cast on her that she started eating non-vegetarian food, she would sit with you having a drink and she was so addicted to smoking that I smell the smoke in the whole house. But my dear son Mohan, why are you beating her now? Do you now wish that she leaves all this and become the same old Veena from Ajmer? But my son, how can milk flow back into the breast?"

Showing his hand, Mohan said, "First of all, living along with me she has learned to back answer me for everything. I cannot tolerate this. I want her to be under me".

Mother kept her hand on his cheek, saying, "A wife should always walk under the man. How I spent my life under your father's authority? "His mother had a look of desire"

Opening his second finger Mohan said, "The second thing is that I do not desire that she comes and sits with me on the shop".

His mother said, "You are right. There is peace in the house when the woman stays more at home and the children get a proper upbringing too".

"But she is not listening. She says that she finds the house like a prison".

"Okay, now the third thing". Mohan now opened the third finger of his hand, "I have been telling her not to talk at all to my customers and my friends. But Ammi, each and every rascal coming to the shop says, "Your wife, with her sweet talk is selling double the liquor to us".

"But my sweet child, this way she is actually increasing your business, isn't it?"

"I don't care for such a business in which these rascals think that I have no business sense. Only this villager has intelligence to do business. And they are so wicked that they say that I am envious. I put them off. What do I say Amma, it hurts me right here". he touched his chest.

"Why don't you break their mouths? Don't you tell them how you have carefully selected such a girl? Or she would have been in some sweet makers house In Ajmer, frying pakoras for her mother-in-law".

"Its okay, I'll tell them that too. Now listen to the fourth thing my mother," saying this Mohan opened his little finger, "Whenever she smiles and laughs and talks to my friends I get a feeling that this treasure is only mine and only I have a right over that joy and laughter. I feel that they are cheating me and stealing from me".

The last words were spoken with so much pain that his mother's heart was torn to pieces. She immediately put her arm around her son.

"Share son, share. Share everything with me today. You don't have a father, so today I will take over that responsibility too. Tell me son, is there any other pain hidden in your heart? Even I kept wondering what has happened to my Laila-Majnu type Veena and Mohan. What has happened to my Mohan that he has raised his hand on his Laila? She is somebody's daughter my dear. Let us face the truth. She has given you two sons and she has also contributed to your shop's progress. Did we have so many properties in Manila before?"

Pulling his hair and clenching his teeth Mohan said, "Arey, why are you also talking like these rascals? I had opened many shops before Veena's coming and today all my four brothers are running those shops".

"No, my son, leave the false and see the truth. What you have earned with so much struggle, none of my other sons have done so. Not even your Laila has contributed to all this".

Mohan hit his head with both his hands and showing his thumb he said, "Do we have anything left now? All the shops are gone..."


"From where they came. They disappeared. Each time I went out to gamble my luck was my enemy and I lost".

His mother was shocked. Putting her hand on her chest she sat a little distance away. Hiding near the door, Veena was listening to this entire conversation and not standing any longer, she went towards her room. When shouting and screaming, Mohan went towards her room he saw that Veena, in a white sari, with a pooja thali(plate) in her hand was leaving. She was still in the corridor when Mohan caught her, saying, "Don't go anywhere Veenu.Today don't go anywhere. You have already worn a white sari, now just see my dead body too and then go".

Veena was quiet for a moment, and then said, "You have been drinking early in the morning? Then with what authority are you trying to stop me from drinking.?"

"Again, those questions and answers? "Mohan gave her a tight slap on her cheek.

She said, "If I had not heard your talks today, perhaps I would have hit you with this Thali itself".

'Disrespectful tongue..." Mohan caught hold of Veena and threw her on the bed. Veenu sat up. Mohan was seething inside. Veenu understood that he might drown the banks of the ferocious ocean. With great patience and folded hands, she said, "Listen My sweet Mohan, I am prepared to do everything. I can give alcohol, gambling, smoking.... I can even leave this world for you. But you become the same old Mohan in whose voice there was love and affection. Listening to which my entire would ring with music. At that time, I would tell myself, "Veenu, this Mohan who is only asking you to drink two two sips of alcohol. Meera had even consumed poison for the love of such a Mohan". But then why did I start to gamble? There were servants and maids at home, and you would often take me to parties. At first, I hated parties but when some of my friends advised me that in a country of lame people a man has to hide his other leg...At that time I hid everything-my knowledge, my education, my Yoga, like a leg".

"Oh...You have done me a great favour!" Mohan said heavily. "And now that leg of knowledge and religion has dried up?"

"Listen, Mohan you are not small anymore, and even I have married children. I am not a child. Taunting like this doesn't suit you and neither will I tolerate it. It is you who has brought me out of a world of toleration I agree. But milk cannot flow back into the breast. Your children studied history and geography in Manila convents which I did not understand. That is why I did not find it necessary to stay at home and make them study. Had I not gone out to gamble then what would I have done sitting at home? Your mother was always busy with temples and idols. Actually, I had thought that I too should join a temple...But you did not have any concern in a world beyond eating and drinking. So, I too did not keep that relation. I started teaching in a Sindhi school only for some days and that too I would leave the shop half an hour early and you said that customers come only in the evening. Without you, most of the customers go back".

"I must have not said 'without you'. What a great person you consider yourself to be? I had set up four shops on my own. After marriage I taught you the talent of making customers...Do you remember how you used to fumble with customers?"

"Yes, sweet Mohan, you only brought me to your friends and put me in touch with clubs and made me so strong that I learned to speak to your customers in style and grace..."

Mohan lit a cigarette quickly and as he put it to his lips the burnt end touched his hand. Furious, he threw the lighter which went and hit the teapot on the table. As it is there was a silence in the house and with this noise the silence grew even deeper. Perhaps Amma was in her room, praying and her bell suddenly stopped. Both the boys had got up and were fooling with the maid in the kitchen. Veena called out to the maid.

Mohan said, "Why are you calling the maid like a cat? Roar her like a tigress, Maid...Maid".

The maid cleared the broken teapot. The cuckoo clock in hall chimed ten and went back to rest.

The daughter-in-law had reached the corridor with her child and suddenly her babbling with her child stopped. Perhaps the maid had told about the disturbance in the house since last night. It was in the mother's room in the morning and now it is in the wife's room.

Mohan again roared like a lion, "It is me who made you a lioness,"

"I agree" Veena said, wiping the sweat from her face.

"Then what are you arrogant about?"

"I have no arrogance sweetheart. I always feel that man progresses according to the conditions he finds himself in.If you see my conditions...The love and affection of my parents...The free flow of knowledge and wisdom...If any other woman had got this like me, she too would have agreed to join you in your world of alcohol and fun which you offered me with so much love and affection. This is the training of every Sindhi house...a married woman has to succeed..."

"But I would escape from your embrace again and again". "But I had read in school in the story of Leela Chanesar in which Leela tells her husband 'You may have many. I have only you.'

"Veena! Veena! All this knowledge of yours did not come to my use". Mohan went restlessly to the window facing the garden...

Veena came and stood by his side. "Will you come to the small garden outside? The swing and the beautiful flowers are calling you".

Mohan said, "The way your daily lifestyle has planted beautiful flowers in the garden and your cheeks too bloom like petals in this age..."

"Enough. Enough. My sweet Mohan is not less than me. Inspite of applying rouge on my face I cannot have the same freshness that you have on your face".

Veena now put her face on Mohan's chest.

Throwing the cigarette butt in the garden Mohan said, "Difficult days have come".

"So what? We shall face them. One does not have to build a permanent fort".

"I am not saying that". Mohan explained. "For so many days I have been playing big stakes in Jakarta and I have been losing everyday.Yesterday I lost the last game too..."

So, what? One loses sometimes and wins sometimes in gambling. What about that?

Mohan tauntingly laughed and said, "Consider all the flats gone in repaying the bank loans".

Veena stood silent, lost in some thought.

"Hey. Where is all your knowledge now? I only asked you to give up alcohol and you were showing me your big eyes. You drew me also out of control".

Veena said with a sulking face, "I don't understand your fast-changing behaviour of arrogance. I agree that there is poverty in the house. But there was also an ocean of wealth in this house. We must learn to face joy and sorrow in equal measure like the Geeta says".

"God knows what big words you are using. The end has come Veenbai! The end!"

"Your friends will help you in these bad times".

"Call them enemies. Friendship? Chee. I had first gone to their doors before hitting you. Understood? When time you speak for them..."

"I don't talk on anyone's behalf. Yes, I do say that why should we find fault with everybody? Everyone has good and bad points..."

"it is foolish to talk to you. You don't know my friends. Even then you are defending them. I don't accept that...Now, the end has come. I am ready to die". Saying this Mohan brought out a new whisky bottle from the bar.

Veen somehow gathered courage and snatching the bottle from his hand, she threw it into the garden...

Mohan was furious. He said, "Do you know the consequences of that?"

Veena locked the bar as well and threw the keys too in the garden, saying, "Your friends may become your enemies, but I will never leave your side..."

"Are you supporting me? Or pulling me out of the water? What if I kill you now?"

"I am pulling you out of the waters of the death and taking you on the path of life..."

Suddenly Mohan grew quiet.

The silence in the house grew even deeper. Suddenly the elder son shouted from the hall, "Who has taken kept both the phones off the hook?" and as soon as he put them back, both the phones began ringing...

Veena answered the phone, saying, "Mohan is not at home. When he comes, I shall ask him to call you..."

On the other phone she said, "Yes, brother, I know everything...We will not cheat anyone even of a single penny. We shall face what all has happened..." As she put down the phone, Mohan caught her by the neck from behind.

"You will face it? You will face it? Do you know how much loss has been incurred?"

Veena freed herself from his clutches and said, "I said we will face it. That includes you also".

The elder son's voice was heard, "Why? Will we leave the country like cowards?"

The mother brought the Arti plate before Mohan and said, "Take the blessings. I am also with you. You are not alone..."

Now the younger son too came and stood in front... "You too? "Mohan looked at his son in disbelief. The younger son answered, "Yes dad, me too".

After that there was no excuse or reason for any conversation. There were calls after calls and people coming in. There were strange threats on the phone and some people even came personally and spoke harshly.

In the evening, carrying his account books, Mohan shut himself in his room with his elder son.

People told Veena on the phone and personally such terrible things about Mohan that finally in the evening, she put her head in her mother-in-law's lap and began weeping.

Patting her head, her mother-in-law blessed her. Veena was crying and saying, "But why are all these friends saying all such things? That my husband has no other option, but death. They are so wicked".

The mother said, "The gold becomes more luminous in the fire. If you are really my children of gold, you will face all the difficulties and sail through".

Late in the night, when both father and son came out of the room, the mother said, "Mohan, my son, she too will support you".

Mohan said arrogantly, "What support will this ignorant woman give me? Now I will keep her at home and look after all the shops alone. Just watch, how I clear all my debts in just twelve months!"

Veena was smiling. Hugging her mother-in-law, she said, "Ammi, I have found my old Mohan..."

"Really.?" Mohan had a self-confident smile on his lips. "Come on. Get me something to eat and a peg or so..."

"Stop these ways, son, atleast for some time. But you don't know my dear how much this Veenu has gone through in your absence".

"In absence?"

"Was it not absence? In the arrogance of a peg I looked so small to you...If two semi-circles are not equal, then how will the full circle be formed..."

"Today's hit has really made me realise your intelligence. Otherwise I would have left the world by morning...these two sons of yours are really very courageous..."

"Afterall they are the sons of a courageous and self-confident father like you".

- Translated by Arun Babani

The End


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