Short Stories >> Vichoro >> Image of Sindhu (Sindhu'a jo Rup)
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
"What has happened to you Daulat's mother? "Shamdas asked, looking away from the newspaper.
"What do you mean what's happened to me? I'm quite fine".
"Then why this noise of utensils, shouting at the children and pulling up th maid since morning?
"You are saying what comes into your mind. Now it is time for an outsider to come home. If you speak like this then that girl too will start making a big noise and catch my throat".
"Which girl have you approved of? You haven't even mentioned it to me".
Shamdas said sharply.
"Our choice does not matter here..?" Saying this she threw the utensil so forcefully on the gas that some of the dal in it fell out of the vessel. Now Daulat's mother's anger touched heights. She put off the flame, threw the vessel down and came and sat on the cot near her husband. Shamdas kept aside the newspaper lit a beedi and began listening attentively to his wife. She wiped the sweat from her forehead and neck with her pallu and said with wide eyes, "Don't I know my sister-in-law? She has tutored Daulat so well that he is insisting to see her neice.The girl is wheatish in complexion, and her family is not so well off. On the other hand he is not paying attention to Sadhuram's daughter who comes with a ten thousand rupees dowry".
Taking a puff at his beedi, Shamdas shaking his head said, "It is understandable but it is a question of our son's choice". "I'm wondering what has gone wrong with you. You don't have just one son. If we accept a poor bride for one then we shall get the same for our other sons too."Saying this she adjusted her dupatta and got up from the cot.
Shamdas pulled her dupatta and gestured her to sit down. He said, "Don't be furious. Listen to mine and tell me yours. Our son has so far rejected eight girls from Bombay. Then why do you fear that he will approve of this girl from the camp?"
Daulat's mother now relaxed a bit. She wiped her face with her dupatta and said, "One doesn't know what the wheel of destiny will bring. All along I have been forcing him to see girls. This time he himself has made a decision. I too unnecessarily took him to his uncle's house. He told his aunty, "Amma has chewed my brains. You please search an educated daughter-in-law for her". As soon as he said this uncle, aunt and cousins pounced on him saying, "Choose Shoba Doli, choose Shoba".
Shamdas's eyes brightened. He said, "Perhaps the girl is so good that they all are impressed with her. Go today itself and show him this girl in the camp itself".
When they returned in the night, after seeing the girl, Shamdas noticed that his wife's face was forlorn. Only Daulat looked quite happy. When he took the ball from the children and started playing with ball Shamdas said, "I think Daulat's mother's desires have been fulfilled today".
Daulat's mother said disappointingly, "What desires have been met? Finally he has approved of a girl and that too a dark skinned one. Anyway…and perhaps they may not even give any dowry?" Daulat caught the ball and said, "Let them not give".
"Let them not give! As if, if they do give your mother would hide it in her cupboard! It is as if when we have the milk from the buffalo we don't require anything else".
"Look at it as if your son does not want to sell himself for money. And aunty has already said that since she is educated she can take up a job. What more?"
As Daulat was leaving to go in to the other room, his father said, "Just listen".
Daulat returned. Shamdas tried to explain saying, "This is good. We can save the tuition fees of our three children every month".
"There! You think only of money. First listen to what kind of trouble she is. When the girl left, the aunt told Daulat that the girl had come on her own to meet him".
"Is it?" Shamdas asked thoughtfully. But on afterthought he said, "So what? In the olden days the princesses had the right to search for a groom. This is according to our tradition and culture".
"You father and sons are always in agreement. It is only me that is insulting myself".
The marriage was confirmed and gifts started coming in, all covered with rose petals. For some time the mother was a bit satisfied, but during the wedding when the bride brought in just two gold bangles and a necklace with a few silk saris and nothing more then Daulat's mother declared a cold war against her daughter-in-law.
The next morning after the wedding Shoba touched her mother-in-laws feet.
She blessed her so abruptly that Shoba was forced to stare into her face. While going out of the room Shoba heard her mother-in-law tell her father-in-law, "On the first day itself she is showing me such big eyes; I wonder what colors will she show later". Shamdas was worried at observing his wife's disdain for her daughter-in-law. A cloud of destruction of the house was hovering above his mind. But in a few days Shoba's competence was spread in the entire neighborhood. Shoba was busy the entire day combing her little sister-in-law's hair and teaching her brothers-in-law. She was surrounded by a crowd full. If she saw her mother-in-law working she would create such a magic that each one would either start reading or start help her with the work.
Six months passed by but Daulat's mother did not lower her position. But Shamdas was too happy with her qualities. One day in the afternoon Shamdas told his daughter, "My dear today you get me my meal, your sister-in-law is going to eat with your mother." At first the mother-in-law gave a jerk but when she saw her daughter-in-law smiling sweetly she felt strange. When they sat to eat her daughter-in-law forced to eat some dishes. She was fed up and she said, "Your father-in-law has got tired of coaxing me to eat. Now you are doing that."Shamdas did not reply to that taunt. He was focusing on the actual purpose of making the daughter-in-law sit with her mother-in-law. He said, "My dear, the children wish to leave the convent school and join a Sindhi school. What do you think?"
The mother-in-law as it is did not approve of Shoba's free interaction with her father-in-law but seeing them both consulting each other on certain matters made her even more furious. She said, "This idea must have been given by her to the children".
"As if your son has not been saying this to them again and again!"Shamdas took the side of his daughter-in-law.
"You have driven the boat in the middle of the ocean!"
Adjusting her dupatta Shoba said, "Ammi I haven't instigated them but listening to my Sindhi stories and songs has certainly motivated them. Many a times they are helpless because they do not know Sindhi. The poor things cannot talk to you in Sindhi. Living in Sindhu Nagar they are unable to read Sindhi newspapers and books.."
"So…?" Daulat's mother said stubbornly. "They should not learn English!"
Humbly Shoba answered, "First we should learn our own mother tongue and then learn other languages. What a child can understand through his mother tongue he is not able to do so in any other language".
"Everything is over." the mother-in-law mocked. Then she said, Sindh is finished. What can we do with Sindhi?" Saying this she became sad. Shoba answered, "Ammi it is more important to keep Sindhi alive here. We all Sindhis are bound together through this common thread".
Shamdas said, "My dear leave this lady alone. She won't understand you. From the first of next month get all these three children admitted to a Sindhi school".
Shoba went to wash her hands. Daulat's mother was frowning in anger.
Shamdas was very sad on his wife's behaviour. In the night assuming Shamdas to be asleep, Shoba was pressing her mother—in-law's feet. She said, "Ammi, I'm so fortunate that you love me as a daughter and even Baba consults me as if I have been born in this house itself".
The mother-in-law still did not answer her. Observing this Shamdas felt even sadder. The next morning when he heard Shoba and the children reciting poems of Shah, Sachal and Sami in a melodious voice he grew even more restless. Looking towards his wife's cot, he thought to himself,"Oh dear, how I wish that this new atmosphere fills your dry mind with greenery".
On the first of the month Shoba got the three children admitted to a Sindhi school. Shamdas had given her money equivalent to the convent fees but much of it was saved in the Sindhi school. Shoba handed over that money to her mother-in-law. The mother-in-law gave a wide smile to her daughter-in-law for the first time in so many months.
One day in the evening, the children caught Daulat and told him, "You play the instrument and we will sing new songs for you".
Daulat brought the musical instrument and sat in the outer room. Shoba lit a few incense sticks in the corner of the room. The children first sang the Sindhi songs learnt at school. Then they caught Shoba. She sang a Sindhi poem. When she melodiously sang a couplet in the middle of the song, sitting on the cot, Shamdas's heart was overwhelmed. He felt like going into the kitchen and telling his wife that instead of ‘Yes man' ‘No man' and the dance of Rumba Samba, how does she find this heart rending atmosphere of today? But just as he was about to go towards the kitchen he heard some murmurs of two women. One was saying, "The girl is so clever that she did not let us touch her dowry and from our son's salary she has only given me, a mother of five, just hundred rupees and she, a mother of two has kept three hundred rupees. Even then the madam says that money is not enough. How will the money be enough? She is roaming about the whole day, spending on her grooming, movies and shopping. Spending on English books and magazine. If you tell her something you wont understand her gibberish answer in English".
Shamdas understood. This was his wife's sister who had snatched a big dowry from her daughter-in-law's family and she was now sharing her pain and sorrow.
"My dear. I am blessed. My daughter-in-law did not bring in any dowry but has brought so many good qualities that I am contented within. She has no interest in fashion, movies etc. Even after being convent educated she speaks Sindhi with Sindhis. She has cast such a magic on my children that they have left a convent and joined a Sindhi school. The entire atmosphere of the house has brightened.."
Listening to this Shamdas felt a unique sense of joy. Coughing gently, he called out to her, "Daulat's mother just come out see the Sindhu river is flowing in our house.."
Daulat's mother and her sister felt uncomfortable. Shamdas said," What are you hiding now? I know that you share with each other. But I'm asking you to come out and see how your daughter-in-law has brightened the house by creating an image of Sindhu.."
Daulat's mother had never displayed her affection for her daughter-in-law in front of her husband. Today she felt as if her husband after hearing her story had softened the hard shell of the coconut. She came out with her sister, smiling.
- Translated by Arun Babani