Short Stories >> Vichoro >> Bride's Father (Kunwar Peau)
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
Even though Parbati was not less happy, yet she told her husband, "I don't know why but I cannot what Deepchand said.."
Irritated, Shankerdas said, "I think you are also a bit crazy, how he can go back on his word which he has gave in front t of many people?"
Even then Parbati couldn't get rid of her doubts. She said, "I understand that Deepchand has asked for Nandini's hand in marriage, but I just cannot believe that he is so large hearted that he on his own has agreed to forego taking any dowry.
"Arey Baba. It is not a new relationship with him. We are childhood friends. We have grown up in the same village in Sindh. Today he may be a little better off than us but at some point of time he was a little lesser than us. It is all a matter of changing times.
Even then Parbati wasn't satisfied. She said, "At that time the Partition had not happened. Even strangers were close to us. But here even our own people are like strangers, so who will remember the past matters?"
Shankerdas patiently explained, "I had not told him for my daughter's marriage. We were sitting together in Seth Kimatrai's Bombay office. Deepchand had come a day before from Jaipur to buy some goods. At that time your Nandini suddenly appeared to ask for donation for her college building. Deepchand was surprised looking at Nandini, saying, "How has this small doll grown so big!" And then he simply took out five hundred rupees cheque and gave it to Nandini.."
Parbati was shocked. She asked, "Has he become so rich?"
Shankerdas became sad and he said, "It is all a matter of destiny. He got the claim money for the farms of Sindh. We had sold our farms in Sindh itself. Even in India our luck did not work. A home in Borivali and work in Bombay. We are slogging our lives like animals in a farm.."
Parbati asked, "When do they want the wedding to take place?"
"They have given us just fifteen days."
Parbati quickly asked, "Have you seen the groom?"
Shankerdas's face lit up. He said, "I have actually fallen for the boy. He is a gem. A real gem. Otherwise is it easy to associate with the rich? Coincidently the boy too had accompanied his father. When his father introduced us, he touched my feet. He is educated with a BA degree. He did give up at matriculation like his father".
Parbati began planning for the engagement. Deepchand had clearly refused to accept anything. Shankerdas too took good care of all the guests. Nandini was looking like an angel in a turquoise sari. The children from the groom's side surrounded her and spoke in a childish voice said, "Papa take the bride home today itself". Everybody was impressed with Nandini's loving nature. There was an air of joy and happiness all in the atmosphere.
After the engagement the wedding arrived soon. Deepchand came along with his entire marriage party landed at Borivali. Relatives, friends, acquaintances and many others gathered there. Nandini's brother Papan was tirelessly looking after the guests. He was just a couple of years older to Nandini but he had gained good height. Many of the ladies attending the wedding were happily imagining him as their son-in-law. Some even inquired about him from Parbati, saying, "Since you haven't given dowry to your daughter, naturally you won't expect dowry for your son".
"If I get a competent bride like Nandini I naturally will not take dowry at all".
This answer raised a lot of hopes in many women. When Papan danced around at the wedding with his friends he became a favorite of everyone at the party.
Few people surrounded Deepchand and started instigating him.A relative told him, "Deep even though the bride is not so beautiful why you have refused any dowry?"
A friend taunted him, "Deepchand you have lined up so many cars, but there is not even a rickshaw or horse-carriage from the bride's side!" Deepchand said, "You may say anything but Shankar is a decent man. He won't dishonor me".
The friends said, "You may defend your friend but for us the things have become clear. He has associated with such a big man; he could have atleast served some whisky or something. But he seems to have taken total advantage. Wah, we have recognized your friend Shankerdas!" Listening to all this talk Deepchand's mind got into doubts. He looked liked like a loser gambler. The brightness in his eyes when he first saw Nandini had now dimmed but his son was growing in excitement. His son was equally enthusiastic while buying the ornaments for the bride. Deepchand said irritatingly, "You won't even get a penny and you are just going on increasing the expenses".
The educated son retorted, "The girl who has been blessed by nature with so many ornaments of beauty does not need all these ornaments. You need not make anything for her". Deepchand felt insulted but laughingly said, "But it is me who has got you such a beautiful bride!"
Deepchand's wife had to select all the ornaments. In the marriage hall Shankerdas and his son Papan wholeheartedly looked after the guests but they were not able to meet the expectations of the groom's side. The groom's side were put up in a five bed room flat which was stocked with soaps, towels, milk, grains etc. But Deepchand's people had expected to be put up in a hotel.
After the wedding ceremony, during the farewell Parbati handed a gold coin to her daughter, a guinea each to her son-in-law, his father and mother, saying, "This is my humble gift to you. It is not dowry but a good luck. Please don't refuse this".
When the whole wedding was through, Shankerdas heaved a sigh of relief and said, "Now it is just the Satawaro ritual left. Once it is over we can consider ourselves blessed".
Papan could not control himself and said, "Dad, Whatever you may say, but these Deepchand people are very greedy".
Parbati said, "But son people are praising him to the skies. If you go to see it was not difficult for these rich people to get a bride and they would have even got a dowry of around a lakh of rupees. So by accepting Nandini they have done us a favor".
Papan said, "Mummy whatever you may say, but these people will not keep our Nandini happy".
In a sad tone Shankerdas said, "Now whatever is our daughter's destiny! He himself asked for the girl after looking at her. It is not my fault at all. But now even I have my doubts".
Parbati shouted, "What's gone wrong with you? You were talking big things that a jeweler has selected a gem. Now why are you getting so pessimistic? Just look how I have become strong minded. The house is reminding me of Nandini.." Saying this Parbati's eyes became teary. Thinking deeply Shankerdas said, "Seems like our hearts have grown distant from each other. When I offered Deepchand a Limca he said,' Wow you are offering me this soft drink. This is our worth for you. Had there been someone else in your place I would quietly returned back.."
"So they expected alcohol?" Parbati asked wide eyed. "Was he not aware of our condition?"
Papan said, "They must be drinking alcohol instead of water."
Parbati said, "But we will go as per our status isn't it? Even then we spent so much on the decoration of the hall, ice-cream and photographs. If you see, in order to keep up to their status we have overspent".
Calculating something on his fingers Shankerdas said, "Parbati this is like spending so much and yet not being satisfied. On the face of it we have not given any dowry but the expenses are more than the dowry of poor bride. Now tomorrow too if Deepchand brings all his relatives and friends to the hotel we will be crushed by the hotel bills.."
Parbati said, "Why will that happen? We shall send a message across in the morning itself to bring just twenty five guests."
Shankerdas liked the idea. The job of sending the message was given to Papan and when Papan came to give the message to Deepchand he burst out in anger saying, "Oh my young man go and tell your father that I have shown you my large heartedness and now it is your turn. Atleast a hundred people will accompany me for the event and see to it that it is organized well in a good hotel. Don't repeat the mistake that you made during the engagement".
Listening to these words from Papan Shankerdas grew cold. "With a hundred people from Deepchand's side along with another twenty from our side will take the expenses into thousands."After thinking a lot he sent Papan again to convince Deepchand to bring along just fifty guests.
This time Papan took along his young aunty and uncle too. In a very humble way he requested Deepchand, "Dada says that this time please invite fifty people only and the others can be invited for some other occasion".
Deepchand got irritate and said, The Satawaro will be on Satawaro day itself. How can it be on some other day? You people are putting too much pressure".
Papan said, "I am conveying what I have been told to"
Deepchand called his wife and said, "Listen to this messenger's message"
Gently but in sharp way the wife said, "Son I don't think you realize that we have suffered so much loss. We have spent thousands of rupees in distributing gifts and money during the wedding,"
Papan innocently said, "That way even during my wedding we will have to give gifts and money from our own expense".
Deepchand lost control, "You think your father will sacrifice? How will he not accept dowry from your in-laws. Sit down young man. You need a large heart to refuse any dowry. During the farewell too your father just made do with four guineas. He did not remember the groom's sisters or brother-in-laws"
Papan became red in the face. He suddenly remembered the arguments that had occurred regarding those four guineas. Even then this guy is not satisfied with them. To control himself he asked, "Ammi can I have a glass of water?"While drinking water he overheard a young female voice saying, "Look at the bride's bother's face. His blood pressure has risen listening about the guineas.."
After he finished drinking he said, "It would have been better instead had you spoken clearly about the dowry".
The aunty and uncle came and took him by the arm. Deepchand angrily said, "You turned out to be most ungrateful. Such a small boy has spoken so much before me. Look at my son sitting there. He will dare not utter a word in front of me. This young boy is so loud mouthed. I now doubt that the sister too must be so loud mouthed"
Aunty and uncle quietened Papan and they both said with folded hands, "OK Dada you may bring along as many guests as you like." Nandini was sitting next to her mother-in-law with her head bent down. Deepchand roared and said, "Nobody from our side will come for the Satawaro. Even Nandini will not accompany you now. She will come in evening with her husband for a while".
Uncle and aunty bent down too much but Deepchand did not agree. Papan repeatedly apologized but it was of no help. Uncle, aunty and Papan came back without Nandini. Parbati was shocked on hearing the whole story. Shankerdas said, "Taking no dowry doesn't mean giving double trouble in return".
Parbati said, "I had always said that it is better to associate with our own status people for marriages".
An old lady from Shankerdas's relations said, "Amma, this is the work of shameless people who have no morals".
Someone else said, "They did not take any dowry but they themselves have not given much to their daughter-in-law".
Suddenly the cook appeared and let out a bomb saying that Deepchand and his guests were leaving by the afternoon train. Deepchand had said that the bill for the three days of lodging and boarding had to be taken from the bride's father. Shankerdas shouted and asked, "What did he say?"
The cook said, "Deepchand said that I have given them so much leeway and not taken a penny in dowry. If he pays the bill of my guests for these three days the heavens will not fall on him".
Papan said in a broken voice, "Dad this is atrocious".
Shankerdas angrily said, "You keep shut. You had gone and spoilt the whole thing".
"Me? Me dad..?" Saying this Papan collapsed on the ground. There was chaos everywhere. An old lady touched him and said, "Oh, he is dead. How can you say so much to the young blood?"
Parbati began wailing and beating her chest. Shankerdas began hitting his head like a mad man. "I am cheated. The killers have killed my son".
The cook came and gave this bad news to Deepchand. Deepchand immediately cleared the cook's bills. He had already sent the guests and the newlyweds to the station and he himself too reached there.
Deepchand did not tell anybody about Papan's death. Shankerdas and Parbati waited with Papan's dead body, for Nandini to come. When people told them that the newlyweds had already left long ago Shankerdas broke down, "Oh Deepchand so much arrogance of being the groom's father. So heartless that you did not even allow the sister to see her brother's dead body". Beating his chest he said, "Parbati now I shall never ever be the groom's father. But I shall never be able to see my daughter's face.. You have finished me Deepchand. What a punishment you have given me for being a bride's father!"
- Translated by Arun Babani