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Short Stories

THE BOND

Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani

Translated by Dr. Shree Israney

Master, I don’t know with what cord of conventions I am bound, otherwise all bonds have been broken. I had thought that the turbulent night, which uprooted many seedlings and saplings, trees and shrubs, and wrecked all settlement of my heart, was over. I did not know that within a year’s time the same tempestuous night would come for you also.

After reading yesterday’s letter, all that was spread out on the surface of the mind, was mingled with the soft clay. It looks as if there has been a drizzling on the fresh and dry soil and a moisturized fragrance is emanating from it. May it rain still more --- so much that the settlement of this body is drifted away and deluged. But this body fettered to old impressions and bound to the strings of new ideas by your friend Gope, cannot be inundated by any force of a stream.

Do you know, when Gope first came to my parent’s place, what did he say? "Roop! Do you want to live or die?"

I was trying to understand whether such a right of friendliness, he has received from you or it was his own creation, that he said smilingly: "You won’t be able to call yourself a thoughtful lady by only forming wrinkles on the forehead."

"When did I tell you that I am thoughtful. Had I been so, I would not have been so spurned by my husband….." Master, I couldn’t say more. Peeling my lip with the teeth, I tried much to swallow my tears. But the tears --- being obstinate like you, leaving the door step of the eyes, made their way through the cheeks.

I don’t know whether Gope possessed an empathetic heart or that every male feels concerned like this for the sorrows of every unknown woman; but at that time Gope wiped his face with such a force that when I lifted my eyes, I was abashed to see his red face like a rising sun. I wish at that time I could get so much sympathy from you!

Gope said: "There are a couple of vacancies of clerks in some office." I laughed but the laughter sounded like a broken glass bangle. I said, "Service! What for? For Whom? A woman who has been spurned by her husband does not even have a right to live, specially when it is all my doing."

"Anyway", taking a deep sigh he said: "Those are personal matters between a husband and wife. I don’t want to interfere. Please say yes for the job so that I can send your application." Within a few moments what a long distance Gope had retreated. He took just a couple of moments to move from ‘you’ to ‘thou’. Do you remember our love story ---- the story before marriage. You said: "Call me ‘you’." That day, standing near the tombs of Mirs at the foot of the mountain in Hirabad we were thinking about the people buried there and their love stories. I said, "Since thou have also started calling me ‘you’ after six months’ meetings, allow me atleast six years’ time." But since it was a step towards kinship, it took such a long time. Really, it is more difficult to proceed further than to go backwards. Otherwise, while climbing the steps of love you took so many years, how could you have climbed down from it so fast and insisted upon going to Saroj, on that stormy night, inspite of seeing my perplexity. You did not have sympathy or compassion! Perhaps only few months were enough to climb down all the steps of the staircase of love!

My my! What did I happen to write. I sat down to write the story after separating from you! I don’t know how I came to repeat the details of the times before that. But nowadays these memories of the past are becoming my wealth, which I have become accustomed to, like a miser, to check, again in the solitude of nights. Anyway I was telling you about Gope. No doubt he got me a job, but I was feeling it difficult to work before so many people. However, after getting the first pay packet, I felt, that though the water of Ganges was chilly, after having a dip in it, I was absolved of all sins. I was also relieved from the remnant bondage of asking you for money.

Now I got preoccupied with the tearing of another bond. While living with my parents the burden of estrangement from you was pushing my heart to its lowest bottoms. At night, on all the days, only one thought kept on troubling me. "I am less trim-looking than Saroj; less beautiful than Saroj, that is why my master --- my husband, crossed my living corpse and reached Saroj. I started setting my hair and adornment exactly like Saroj. Even then the deficiency could not be made up. I didn’t know what was lying cracked in me which could not be repaired. The past, whenever it found spare time, started hissing at me like a snake. "What right do you have to prevent your husband from going to another woman? The only legitimate control over a husband is that of love. But when there was no love, why did you go in for collecting chaffs leaving the grains behind. After all why should he love you? What is so special in your features?"

But, I could not understand why even the mirror did not give such evidence. In spite of all this, when I saw that your mind was, all the day and the night, with Saroj, then I said, what efforts should I make to captivate the bird, which has already flown away. And that rainy night when you insisted and went out to attend Saroj’s birthday party, that night became the most turbulent night for me. I agree I did not prevent you with words --- but does one’s deluge of tears and deviation not tell any thing? After you went away, every burst of wind said in my ears: "The bond of marriage is so much loose --- why do they want to have four rounds? Why do they take signatures on the registers and why is such a frail know bound before innumerable people?"

A fire blazed in my mind. I entreated that fire much to come out and burn everything but nothing happened. In spite of infinite rain from my eyes, the burning did not cool down. My sleep was stripped of eyes and the only friend who could console me in my loneliness, also went away annoyed. Next day I fought with you like a mad ferocious lioness. I wish at that time you could have known that flame which separates one from one’s own people. Then you might have poured over me all the water available on the earth,

or you might have poured down all affection of your heart from eyes and having washed with it, calmed me.

But at that time your heart was in one piece. Why one, it was even doubly strengthed ! After all you had the support of Saroj. You did not even know how does a broken heart become a burnt out earthen lamp. You shouted and said, "Who are you to separate me from my friends? Go away from here. I don’t want even to see your face." Yes, you said those harsh words to a beauty, in whose separation some times, your nights wounded you like the sharp edge of a sword. And what kind of light could I get from the darkness of my heart. Slowly and gradually I climbed down the stairs and went away. I did not know where my feet took me. When I came to my senses I found myself on the seashore. The waves started betting and racing among themselves, to take me into their arms.

When one human being refuses to mingle himself with another the Nature offers him help. But my education had even snatched away that much innocence, with which I could understand it as help. Nature knows how to make a human being helpless, only a human being can give life to another human being, by becoming a support, he makes one comfortable in times of sorrow. This thing I came to know later or should I say that I knew it earlier, otherwise why should I have asked for your support! But I got the personal experience of it when Gope realized that even after getting me a job he had not been able to make me smile. One day he said ruefully, "There is not much distance between your office and mine, then why don’t you come to meet me?"

I don’t know under what impulse I happened to accept his offer; probably, partly with the intention of taking revenge from you and partly there was a desire to see you. First time while coming to your office my head had started beating like a smug. Thank God that Gope’s table was far away from that of yours. Every day I used to come, putting on new dresses, and go out with Gope, passing deliberately through your department. First I felt your careless eyes behind me. But slowly they became envious. One day suddenly they become the eyes of a wounded and broken-winged bird!

While taking tea Gope asked me, "Why are you so confused today?…. But even this confusion looks beautiful on your face just as the confusion from the different colours in a rainbow emanating from the reflection of waterfilled balloon in the sun."

Raising my head I said, "I thank you very much Gope! I was under the impression that I am not beautiful and interesting but I don’t know when you came and removed my impression. You praised my beauty, you liked my fast-moving fingers on the typewriter so much that you could …. put them…. but you are an idol of worship for me. You have done the great job of taking out my soul from the deep valleys of sorrows and making it a flame and put it on the rock ……"

He said with a smiling face, "Do you know that I have taken permission for marriage from your husband ……!"

"You may consider the bonds of marriage to be so loose, but not I. My love for you is spiritual. Is it not sufficient?"

Although I could myself understand the emptiness of the words spoken at that time, but still, I don’t know under what influence of impressions, I said them. For Saroj also you had once said like this. "Why can’t one have spiritual love with a girl after marriage?"

Gope was a clear headed person. He said, "Under these conditions I don’t give any importance to spiritual love. It is a mistake to separate soul and body from each other. It is a deception which is sufficient to entice people, but I hate such subterfuge." "I shall think it over". So saying I came to your office after tea. My eyes did not betray me. You were certainly looking at me like a wounded bird. What could I do at that time. Carrying tears in my eyes and pain in my heart, while I was returning, I heard some one in your section remark, "Kishore’s luck is bad." I was startled. I deliberately threw my hankie down and then while picking it up I again heard some one saying with sweet laughter of jingling bangles, "So many have misunderstood Saroj’s friendship like this. One does not know how many’s hopes would be shattered by her marriage card."

It seemed as if some one released me from the prison. I felt running back to you. But a woman always avoids manifestation of love. Add after all why not ---- some persons also do not like her manifestation.

I came back to my office and kept on thinking that a man is never satisfied only with friendship. But it is also not a fact that he is satisfied only with marriage. I told myself: "If we settle in a house again, I shall allow you by all means to socialize with all my friends ….."

And I received your letter in the evening. I don’t know what broken links were connected again; I cannot understand what has happened to me. All old, unsung and strange songs are coming to my mind! You have also passed a stormy night like me. You have also seen the settlement of your heart being buried in the earth. I am sorry for it. But your words: "Roop, we shall never be separated again", have made me dance. "The restriction which I thought to be a bond, was actually love ….. a salvation." I cannot tell you how these words of yours have relieved me from so much anguish. Since I don’t feel like sleeping, I have poured down the past on the paper. Yes, we shall never be separated again. I don’t know on which tempestous night bonds of marriage were loosened. Even after receiving the letter, there have not been lesser storms. There have been many flashes of thunder and lightening. I don’t even know, whether the oil in the lamp will continue to burn till the day dawns. I am carrying much more confusion in the heart today, than what had been on the night of separation. I know today’s night you will also pass in opening and closing the windows, reading books, standing in the balcony, setting right the cupboards and what not. But with the first rays of the sun, you will get this letter through the milkman. It would be nine by the time you come. That moment …. that moment, I just can’t imagine! It will be much more eye-filling than the melted gold of the dawn ----- it will be a Real One.

This story was published by 'BEST SINDHI SABHA' in 1987 in ‘Sindhi Short Stories’ and was complied by Shri Holaram Hasija ‘HANS’.

 

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