Short Stories >> Atam Vishwas >> Separated from Roots (Valar khan Whichrayal)
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
Baba said, "We have to leave for Bombay immediately".
I asked in a meek voice, "Then Shall I start packing my bag?"
Though Vijay was looking at the carpet, his inner eye was seeing something else altogether. I said, "Baba has told you to phone and book three tickets for Bombay on the first available flight".
Even then Vijay looked with that false gaze and said, "Yes"
I again came out into the hall from my room and I saw that the old servant was standing like a statue, wide-eyed, at the same spot, near the TV, where I had left him five minutes back.
When My father-in-law had heard the news from Bombay over the phone, he very calmly told us, "Listen, Vijay, Sarla, Meenu has been murdered by the servant in Bombay".
"Why? How? For what? "I had screamed many questions at my father-in-law, but there was a bloody silence on Baba's face and a stony look on Vijay's face on top of that. I was trembling inside. What should I do? Where do I go? I know how much I had loved Meenu. When I got married and came, she was the only chirping bird in this house. What kind of people are these father and son? Why aren't they telling me anything more? In any case besides the sound of TV, plates, cup-saucers and fork-spoons, hardly any other sound is heard in this house. Suddenly the servant shouted, "Arey, I had brought up Meenu with my own hands. Nobody can kill Meenu".
Now Vijay too came into senses. He asked his father, "Has Thangam really killed Meenu? He was a couple of years younger to Meenu. He must be hardly nineteen years of age".
Baba had tears in his eyes, and the tears lit up a storm in those red eyes. He said, "Shankar himself said that he had gone downstairs with a friend and the maid had gone to buy vegetables".
I shouted, "Who told the maid to buy vegetables? I strictly told them that Meenu should not be left alone even for a moment. It was Thangam who always went to buy vegetables. "But Baba did not have any answer to this question. Drops of sweat kept flowing down his face and neck. I took a napkin and handed it to him and increased the air conditioning. Then taking Vijay aside I said, "You atleast control yourself. You can see Baba's condition".
"Yes" Vijay's voice was like somebody talking from a deep cave..." Yes, Baba had become like a stone like this when migrating from Sindh".
Now Vijay stood up. He booked three plane tickets from Dubai to Bombay over the phone. There were two and a half hours left. We reached airport in one hour. When we reached Bombay, there was still a crowd there. The police had surrounded the house. An officer came forward and spoke to Baba. "The young servant tried to kill himself after killing Meenu. At first, he tried to escape because there are blood stains on the balcony door. Later he consumed acid and locked himself in the storeroom. The police have admitted him to the hospital in an unconscious state. We need to do a post-mortem of Meenu Didi" The officer could not say anything more. Baba started walking silently with the officer. Many people from the balconies above kept looking at us below. The maid came down quickly, took the bags from my hands, sat at Baba's feet and burst out crying, "My sweet Meenu. My Meenu".
Early next morning all the balconies of the building were watching. Now some tongues too started wagging from which we could recognise some words like 'Sindhi' and 'Sindhi girl". We could not stand there any longer. We came up in the lift, accompanied by the constable. Shankar just caught hold of his father and burst out crying. His father just embraced him tightly. Vijay too controlled his tears with his handkerchief and held his brother tightly at the waist and stood. After a moment, "Why did you leave us brother-sister alone Bhabhi?" saying this Shankar fell at my feet.
"Oh God! How did I know that such a calamity would occur Shankar?" I hit my face and started crying. "Why did I go to Dubai Meenu? Why did I?" I caught hold of Vijay's arm and said, "You had told me so much that I should not go. Then why did I leave India? Why did I leave Meenu alone? Now whom will I call 'Baby'?"
This noise echoed in the vast grand hall. Meenu's friends, Shanker's friends, our relatives and friends had all gathered in the corner of the hall.
"She did gain anything; she did not do anything" saying this her paternal aunt began hitting her head in front of Baba. Constable opened the door of Meenu's room. Vijay gave a scream. I became mentally crazy. But Baba kept looking at the knife near the dressing table, without blinking, as if all his desires had become lifeless. Meenu's both lifeless arms had slipped on her either side into the pool of blood.
"Oh My God! How the rascal sinner has slaughtered such a delicate flower!" aunt said and embraced Baba. Baba gave out a sob. The entire hall was weeping silently and even the constable holding the door had tears in his eyes. He closed the door. Three days had passed after Meenu's funeral. Vijay and I kept repeatedly blaming ourselves for having left Shankar and Meenu alone in India.
Aunt said, "It is not your fault. Children nowadays are studying up to twenty-one twenty-two years. In our times by this age they would have a few children"
Baba put his fingers on his forehead saying, "It is destiny! What all I had planned for her. That I would get her married in great style and I would invite musicians from Sindh, and nobody would miss the mother".
Aunt said, "Daulat, let me tell you the truth if you don't mind. You should not have hired a servant in the house where there was a young unmarried girl".
Baba helplessly replied, "But he looked so small when I employed him four years ago".
"But he was around seventeen. Isn't it? And above that the rascal ate non-vegetarian food and grew big and strong".
In the night Vijay came and said that the servant had regained consciousness after three days and he was struggling. The doctor had told him, "The poison you had consumed was very old, so it did not have much effect on you. We have now flushed out all the poison from your body. You are out of danger". Hearing this he created a ruckus in the hospital, "Why did you save me? You should have left me to die".
"The rascal is right. What is the benefit of saving such a murderer?"
"Benefit?" Vijay "I shall rest in peace only after I see this hypocrite hanged to death".
Shankar was out of control and there was blood in his eyes. Had the servant been there before him, he would have perhaps killed him with fists and blows alone! But inspite of listening to all this Baba kept silent and calm. Vijay says that after migrating from Sindh Baba's some part of the mind has become totally silent. Till the mother was alive there was atleast some conversation between the father and children, but after her death Baba spoke only selected counted words. Even Shankar, Meenu and Vijay spoke less. They would pause after every sentence, but they would converse freely with friends. Ofcourse they talk and fool with their Paternal aunt quiet often.
One day aunt told them "The whole day you are jabbering in English, then why don't you go and settle in London? We left Sindh out of helplessness. You all have stopped even being Sindhi. Do you have any knowledge of Shah's verse, Sachal's poetry, or Sami's Shloka on your tongues?"
Shankar laughed and said, "Dadi, just watch, we are going to make Bombay into London".
Aunt was angry. She said, "You fellows. Are you crazy? Why will you make London here. Say you will make Sindh here. Your ancestors were Sindhis, so you should make a Sindh here".
I said, "Dadi the Sindhis have always been imitating others. So, they will neither make a London nor a Sindh. Then they will be like Trishanku (Mystical mountain/name of Lord Shiva)...stuck between sky and earth".
Aunt said very sadly, "If the swan forgets its walk, then its value will be less than a crow".
Then Vijay taunted his aunt, "Now what is this swan's walk?"
"Why are you troubling me. As if you don't know that Sindhis living in London and America carry poetry and music in tapes to their place and worship and recite in Sindhi and keep their culture alive? And here in your house it is all English Tata and Bye-Bye. And what kind of Films are you watching on TV, even an old woman like me is feeling ashamed"
We had all laughed at this conversation with aunt, but today when Meenu is not alive, those memories are burning me like some acid. Even a nineteen-year-old servant must have seen varied types of films in our house.
I still cannot forget Vijay's talk that the servant is still alive.
I couldn't sleep till late at night. I came and stood in the balcony. All the eight rooms of the house were silent today. Till today, it used to be almost day at this time. All the eight rooms used to be full of life with song and dance, under the light of bulbs. On top of this Baba had collected some money to buy the neighbouring flat too. The neighbours considered us as fortunate, but after Meenu's murder they was a black cloud spread over everything. What would the neighbours be thinking about us? God alone knows! But the relatives had crossed all limits. There were as many stories as number of tongues. Yet everyone had heard aunt lamenting, "My dear bird chose death, but she did not lose her respect".
I had become very disturbed thinking about all these talks. From the balcony where I was standing, the star-filled sky appeared as far off as the thirteen floors down on earth. Suddenly a bird passed by, chirping.This bird was separated from its flock in the middle of the night, just like Meenu. Oh, my restless mind! In which sky do I search for my little bird?
- Translated by Arun Babani