Short Stories >> Atam Vishwas >> Suffocation (Boosaat)
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
Sunder's mother got to know that today there was her would-to-be daughter-in-law's dance show on TV. So, she came to her neighbour Jhaman-ma's house early, to watch the show. When Jhaman saw the show, he caught Sunder's mother's shoulders from the back and said, "Ammi, your Sunder is so lucky".
"Keep quiet now". his mother scolded him, "I would have never got you married to such a dancer".
Sunder's mother turned pale. As long as the program was on, on the TV, she did not have ant complaints against her daughter-in-law, but Jhaman's mother's announcement, that she would never have allowed her son to get married to a dancer, spoilt her mood totally.
When she returned home, her daughter-in-law's dance was playing before her eyes and Jhaman's mother's comment was running in her mind.
Sunder returned home late that night. His mother put a plate of food before him and went and sat sadly on the chair.
Sunder said, "Tomorrow the mechanic will bring the TV home".
"Finally, it is repaired...Unnecessarily I had to go to other people's doors".
Sunder asked, "Why aren't you eating?"
"How to eat when I cannot even swallow a morsel?"
"Has something happened?"
"Today I saw your dancer Neelam on the TV. I shall not allow you to get married to her".
"But I am not going to get married to anyone else".
"Then make her give up dancing".
"Amma, what are you saying? She has spent so much to reach at this position. Just like an Apsara...You are a devotee of Shiva. Have you not heard about Shiva's Tandav?"
"They are Gods. Don't talk about them. I have to listen to everyone that I have got a dancer daughter-in-law".
"No one from the new generation considers dance as anything bad. Do you know that in Madras every single girl learns dance?"
"Are we Madrasis?"
"What kind of crazy people are these? Our Kamala too is fond of singing".
"See how I am going to throttle her. She is still young. When she is of marriageable age, just see how I will burn her throat".
Sunder fell into deep thought. He visualised Goddess Kali in his mother's face. But in the night, he remembered that scene again when Neelam was going to the TV centre for her program. She had first bowed down before her Guru and then come and stood before him. Her pure mind had desired to embrace this god-like idol and then she put her hands on his feet and touched her fingers to her eyes in a devotional way. Every part of Sunder's body was filled with music. Oh. Life! Heaven! Truly heaven! Her red-coloured hands, soft like rose petals. Neelam looked heavenly in a Bharat Natyam costume with beautiful clothes and jewellery. He could not forget her beautiful smiling lips...
Suddenly someone came and pounded Sunder's chest. His musical dream was disturbed.
"I am telling you I do not want this daughter-in-law in this house!" saying this his mother kept beating his chest as well as beating her own head. She was completely hysterical. Then Sunder just embraced her and said, "Amma, I will do as you please but now keep quiet and rest".
Listening to this commotion in the silence of the night, Kamla too woke up and came into her brother's room. Listening to her brother's last sentence, she said, "When Bhau is saying that he will do as you say then why are you crying? You have been saying girls are available dime a dozen. Then he will leave this one.!" Sunder raised his eyes and looking at his sister said, "Kamla listen to one thing. Please don't repeat this dialogue again. You don't talk like mummy. Just think. You too are a girl..."
Kamla became nervous and she led her mother to the other room.
Sunder was lost in the flow of thoughts for many days. Once again, he tried to convince his mother. One day he brought Neelam home, dressed in very simple clothes. His mother behaved very strictly with Neelam. She told her, "These ways of you boys and girls are not good. I would never allow my Kamla to go behind any boy like this. I wonder how families trust their daughters so much nowadays".
Neelam simply kept smiling. Even though Neelam was in simple clothes, Kamla could get her eyes off her. After Neelam left the mother pinched Kamala's cheeks and said, "You girl, you are still young, and you are singing film songs the whole day. I have not yet spanked you. Just remember that I don't like these styles. Look at the girl's daring. She has walked into the house of a stranger-boy. If I ever see you talking to strangers, I will break your teeth".
Kamla sulked and went and stood in the balcony. Her mother shouted, "There is no need to stand in the balcony".
Kamla came inside and took a book and started reading. Time went on passing...moments...days...weeks...months. At last, one day Sunder got married to Neelam in the court, with the help of his friends, and brought her home, fully dressed up as a bride.
His mother wailed and cried, "An empty-handed bride. No music, no celebration. My son has simply got married".
The mother continued being indifferent to the daughter-in-law. The daughter-in-law worked in office and performed on TV programs and hence she would return home late, with Sunder. The mother's rejection was such that she never ever allowed her daughter Kamla to accompany her brother and sister-in-law.
Kamla had now begun going to college. She did not like her friend's jokes, laughter and gossip about boys and girls. Only Tuljha, her mother's friend's son would come home at times with books and notes.
Kamla said, "I am going to return my friend's book". But as Kamla left, her mother went to the balcony and was shocked to see that Tuljha appeared from somewhere and they both walked away together, speaking to each other. In the evening when the watchman switched on the staircase lights, Kamla asked from below, "Neelu, has mummy come back from Satsang.?"
Neelu answered, "Today mummy has not gone to Satsang".
Frightened of her mother, as Kamla appeared, she was showered with slaps from her mother.
In the night she shouted at her son saying, "You have ruined my house by bringing in a characterless girl".
Sunder looked at his sister in surprise. Kamla lowered her tearful eyes. "I have...nothing...nothing..." she was simply sobbing. Sunder was confused as to what had happened, "Nothing. Nothing girl if I see you again with that Tuljha, I will break your feet and make you lame ...Don't have any hopes".
Sunder took a sigh of relief, "Oh, she had gone with Tuljha. He is a nice boy. He is your friend's son".
His mother burst out like a fire to which more kerosene had been added. And Sunder simply caught both his ears and began squatting and standing.
Kamla could not control her laughter. Her tears on her cheeks shone like the morning dew drops. Then the mother laughed, and endearingly slapped the laughing Sunder. But Sunder was smart. He embraced his mother and made her sit on the bed...
Sunder's mother went for a few days with her Satsang-friends to Shirdi. When she returned, she was shocked to see that her daughter and daughter-in-law were happy and close to each other. She took her daughter aside and scolded her so much that Neelam felt it a crime to talk to her sister-in-law. Neelam then joined her hands.
There was a silence in the house. Suddenly, the mother realised that every evening Kamla would dress up leave the house on some or the other pretext. Keeping a watch from the balcony she realised that Tuljha too left his home around the same time.
One night Sunder's mother started sobbing. Sunder was shocked. His mother said, "Now either your wife stays in this house or me".
Sunder could not understand what was Neelam's fault after all. He asked his mother the reason and she hit her knees with both her hands, saying, "I am beginning to doubt that your wife's shadow has fallen on my daughter in such a way that my daughter too...Tuljha..." she started sobbing while saying this.
Sunder said, "Why don't you realise that Kamla has grown up now and she is not even allowed to talk to Neelam at home. So, she is searching for love somewhere else. You get her married quickly to a boy of her choice".
The mother said, "But first get your wife out of this house".
After listening quite a while Sunder said, "Okay. But she will not leave alone. Obviously, I too will have to leave with her". His mother hit her head with her hands and said, "You will leave your mother who has the burden of a daughter on her shoulders for a bad charactered girl?"
Sunder said, "You are only making me helpless".
A week passed by. Mother, son, daughter and daughter-in-law did not have the courage to talk to each other.
Kamla was prevented from singing songs. There was a restriction of standing in the balcony. The whole house was filled with some sort of suffocation.
One night, the mother entered her son's room, shouting. She was excited and catching hold of his arms, brought him to her room. Sunder found Kamla lying unconscious, on the mat. Her mouth was frothing. There was a letter kept under the inkpot. Sunder read it.
Mummy! This suffocation is not good. Not talking to Bhabhi. There are two houses in one house. No singing. No standing in the balcony. No laughing with friends. No talking to Tuljha...You say that girls are available dime a dozen. So Tuljha will not lose anything...He will get another rich girl. But for me...there are no dime a dozen boys. It so sad...So sad...Mummy you have said, - A dead child is better than a disobedient child...I am disobedient too...Be happy if I die!
- Translated by Arun Babani