Chilly wind started to freeze blood in the body. Sleep and lack of movement had paralyzed my feet. The bus had arrived at the outskirts of the village. The jerks all along the way had already strained my back. Most of the passengers were also feeling fatigued and some of them were busy in chatting. Their gossips were continuing nonstop. But I was absorbed in the self.
The bus moved down the road with a creaking sound when the driver changed the gear. It stopped with a jerk. It was very near the village now. With others, the conductor also indicated me about my destination and said, ‘Your stoppage has come, Sahib.’
‘Yes, I am getting down.’
From the back of my seat came a suppressed voice, ‘Oh! He is the son of that fellow.’
‘Bare clothed, he used to walk in the streets.’
‘Dwelling in cities and changing apparels one doesn’t become a gentleman.’
‘What gentleman! The donkey of the village, with a foreign gait….’
‘His father didn’t even hunt a frog, and the son is posing himself a great archer.’
‘This conductor has even no sense. He calls every one a gentleman.’
At the common sense of these two, even the conductor couldn’t stop himself from smiling. He wanted to say something, but letters got stifled in his throat. It was his everyday route. There was no point in growing enmity. He knew about the condition of one of his kind who got entangled with such rogues and had his bones fractured. He had to have treatment for long.
I got down the bus with my briefcase and the conductor handed me the remaining luggage. I thanked him and meanwhile the bus also moved ahead but his gaze remained fixed on me for long.
With me those two and a few other passengers also got down the bus. All were feeling uneasy from within. They had no dialogue, but had certainly maintained silent communication with me. The others seemed afraid of those two. They were the nephews of the village Sarpanch.
When they got down the bus, they certainly had the intention to have a row with me. They were using indecent language. But, I kept on going my way without getting entangled with them. Meanwhile, sandstorm began to blow when I reached home. Sweat and sand mingled formed a layer of sticky substance on my face. The bushes of the Margosa tree in the courtyard waved and produced howling sound whenever the wind blew fast. When the sandstorm abated, it was followed by lightning and thunder of clouds. Soon darkness began to spread all around.
I opened the gate and in the corridor saw my mother lying on a frayed and broken cot. She was caught by cough and her respiration was very heavy.
‘Mother’…. Hearing this word her chest piercing cough departed miles away. It appeared to me that her surprise bewildered her, as though twenty suns began to blaze before her eyes. She drew up her Odhini and holding my head in her hands began to shower upon me unnumbered blessings. But with these blessings, she also grumbled and complained, saying:
‘For you we are as good as dead. I gave birth to seven sons, but to no avail. My condition is no better than a childless mother. Anyway, it is useless to expect Sarvan Kumar like sons in this Kaliyuga. Time has worsened now. If your father were not here, no one would even pass me a tumbleful of water. Your elder brother lives in this village, but we don’t even see his shadow. We just keep waiting and grumbling. Who cares! Who should we complain to, and who would listen to us? The villagers have also forgotten the name of humanity.’
Mother continued her complaints and said, ‘With utmost difficulties, curbing our own desires, we grew you up and now you have got close to your wives.’
‘No, no mother, it is not so. We have to earn our bread anyhow. If we all lived together…’ While uttering these words tears gathered in my eyes. I realized that the pain of my mother was really just.
Seeing my condition mother said, ‘No, my son you are not at fault. It is the plague of time. We have to bow before the dictates of Time. Time spares none. King Harish Chandra couldn’t even escape himself from the power of time. How much he suffered! Anyway, are your children well? ‘
‘They are fine. Iliya was not keeping well…..Your daughter in law has conveyed her regards.’
In the meanwhile mother began to have the attack of cough. I started to massage her back and I felt that she was having fever.
‘Is Iliya now well?’She asked and then cleared her nose. I am feeling feverish. The whole day I was uneasy and now this fever has caught me. I am feeling cold. Would you bring me a quilt? ‘
’ I took out of my pocket tablets and asked her to take them to reduce temperature and then covered her in a quilt.’
‘Since when have you been suffering from fever?’
Since last fortnight, my son…your father takes all care. If he were not here, things would have been difficult. Now he also feels helpless. We are paying for our doings of the past. No one shows pity towards us…’ Tablet began to show its effect. Fever was mild now.
‘Where has father gone?’
‘He went out yesterday evening to have the grain grounded. He told to return by noon time. He has not returned yet. He said he would be staying for the night at Basto ji’s home. It is drizzling. He might get drenched on the way.’
‘Has the local floor mill closed again?’
‘The floor mill runs but…’
‘What should I say, my son …! It’s all the result of your sown thorns. Your father is ever on the run.’
‘The Sarpanch has got defamed but he is still relentless. His mind still stinks of arrogance….and you want to submit papers for settlement with these bastards.’
‘Speak gently, my son. It is not good to get angry. We are not going to take any action. We are still suffering the consequences of our earlier actions. You people have got settled in the cities with your families. We have to survive in the village. We are bearing the ordeals. You people made mountain of a molehill. Our survival has become a torture for us. We are living evasively and surviving anyhow. Who is to look after us? No one has even a streak of pity in his heart for us. Even our weeping doesn’t move these devils. Who will admit one’s own milk adulterated? But, this elder man of the village has become absolutely shameless. He is getting naked in behavior; and why should these people behave gracefully? They are obliged to none…. You have turned your face to the village after six months. You don’t have an idea of your father’s condition. He is getting demoralized from within. What days is he facing now! He has to travel miles to get the grain grounded. The complaint of the Sarpanch, the trial in the court and over that we are defamed in the community. Wherever we go we are hit with arrows of words. They all talk of our exclusion from the community. No one wants to go in the depth. People speak inconsiderately what they like. Though unwillingly, we have even stopped visiting others. Not just this, my son, the villagers have even taken our cows out of the village herd and, deserted this way, they have been auctioned by the municipal authorities. We mortgaged our ornaments to get them back. We don’t even have adequate water for them.’
‘But, we have our own well for fetching water?’
Mother was deeply grieved and said, ‘Yes, we have that, but of what use! Only your father and I can jump into it. Who will help us to drag water? Your father is over seventy now and the depth of the well is no less than seventy feet. Can your father pull water out of it? You know it well my son that with old bullocks one can’t till land.’
‘But my elder brother….’
‘Yes, he can do it, but that lazy fellow can’t even help this much. Last year when a log fell on him, he had a narrow escape. Had he died, we would have had no option except to weep.’
‘Where has he gone now?’
‘Just roaming around his wife…. That hag has really troubled us a lot. She is thrust upon us from some degraded family. But why to blame her! Our own son has proved himself of no use. Better if he had died in the womb. I would not at least see these days.’ While uttering these words mother was tormented with grief.
I had a glance of the sky. The clouds were scattered now. While looking towards mother I realized that clouds of thoughts were floating in her mind. But helpless as she was, she could do nothing except wiping her eyes with the corner of her odhini.
The creaking sound of the door drew my attention towards it. Father had returned. He had taken the support of his stick while opening the door. On his head he carried a sack of flour weighing around ten to fifteen kilogram. Plodding his way he arrived to the courtyard feeling tired and exerted.
I approached in front of him to get the sack of flour down on the ground. He fondled me by moving his hand on my head and said, ‘No my son, you will spoil your clothes. When did you come?’
I told him that I had arrived there a little ago and while telling it took the sack off his head. He then asked me, ‘Are the children well?’
‘All are well.’ I replied.
‘How is your mother feeling now?’
‘When I had arrived here she was having fever. I gave her tablets. She is better now.’
‘She keeps remembering you. But, she is broken down now. If she passed away in my hands, it would be better; otherwise she will suffer a lot.’
‘No father, why do you think so?’
‘In this Kalyuga, only such thoughts come in the mind.’ Saying so he approached near mother and asked her, ‘Would you put on fire some water; or you want to have rest?’
‘I’ll do that.’ She uttered these words and at the same time got down the cot and went near the hearth to lighten fire. In a little while the sound of boiling water was heard. Father poured from the bowl some boiled water in another vessel, mixed some cold water in it and taking it away on a slab of stone began to wash his hands and feet. He said, ‘It will give relief and remove exertion.’
I nodded my head in yes.
It was evening now. Darkness began to spread. The ringing notes of bells and the sound of drums were heard rising from the temples, mingled with the sound of conch shells. Lowing of the cattle was also intermingled with this. The flocks of sheep were returning to their enclosures.
Father sat for his usual prayers with his rosary rotating in his hand. I sat in front of him. The cow dung cakes were burning with blaze in the hearth. Mother began to bake sogras in the hearth. Mother was so perfect in preparing them that for her skill she remained the object of envy of a number of women of the village. But today I noticed that the sogras she was making were shapeless. The border of some of them slipped out of the baking pan and, while changing the sides parts of them remained stuck upon the baking pan. And finally on the ambers some of them got burned and began to release a special fragrance. I could see clearly that mother’s eye sight had diminished.
I asked her if I could help her.
‘No, my son. I can still work for myself.’ She answered. ‘I know that my eye sight has weakened. What can one do! We are bound to pay for the deeds of the past.’ Tired and frustrated she continued speaking, ‘I have got seven sons and their wives, but all in vain. I have no joy in my fate. Better than me is the fate of Rukmani , the Brahmin lady. She has no children. She at least depends on nobody. She earns her meals begging from others. It seems I will have to die hungry and unfed.’ While she was grumbling this way, one sogra on the ambers began to burn and helping her I turned its side. Noticing it mother said, ‘Today you are helping me but who will do it tomorrow. I will have to pull my weight ultimately. Give me the tongs. They are hot. You may burn your hand.’ Saying so mother prepared one more sogra and placing it on the baking pan she thrust some more fuel in the hearth. It produced the sound of sparks that emanated from the hearth. I withdrew from there telling mother that I was returning in a while.
Noticing me going out father asked, ‘Are you going out for urinals?’
‘Yes.’ I said.
‘Do one thing then. There is a stick lying there. Take that with you.’
‘No one is going to harm me, father.’ I said.
‘It is better to be on the safe side. We can’t trust the Sarpanch. He is still angry. Moreover, the news of your arrival to the village might have reached to them.’
Unwillingly I took the stick with me and came near the yard. As I opened the door to go out, a sound was heard from the shed. Father got up leaving his prayer and came to the yard and stood at a distance from me. His eyes kept on moving from me to the shed until I had done with my job and had tied the cord of my pajama.
‘Why did you come behind me, father?’ I reacted.
‘You don’t know my son. A snake is no one’s relative. I know it well. You just started the discord, but we are singed by its fire.’
Chatting with each other we arrived back to the corridor. Mother had by now baked sogras but sparks were still sprouting out from the hearth. I was silent as my consciousness had descended and disappeared somewhere in these sparks. It returned to the self when I heard father’s voice saying, ‘Come, and let us have meals.’
Mother served us the meals and we both started to eat. While eating meals father commented,’ I have heard news. It is in the newspapers.’
‘What news?’ Mother asked.
‘It is so shameless that one feels ashamed while telling it. In my life time I have heard it for the first time. In a nearby village a father of three children raped his own daughter.’
‘It’s all true.’
‘Oh God! What a Kalyuga !’
‘That is why, we see all around destruction and only destruction. Everywhere the influence of Kalyuga dominates. The pitcher of sins is filled to the brim. Now it is bound to burst.’
‘Standing camels can never be saddled. But see it is happening now. It is said impossible things never happen. But see how they are occurring in the present. Oh God!’
‘Dharma is continuously on the decline. It is clearly mentioned in the holy books that decline of Dharma would result into famine and large scale destruction.’
‘We are witnessing the result with our own eyes.’ Mother said. I intervened and asked, ‘What would have happened, if Dharma had prevailed?’
‘If Dharma had stayed, it would have followed Truth and if Truth had prevailed we would not see such things happening- our old age family would not have been excluded from the village Panchayat…Sometimes I think of leaving this place of our old age abode and move to some unknown and unfamiliar place….but it is not so easy to get rid of the attachment with our native place.’
Mother said in the meanwhile,’ See my son, you have come on the opportune time. Sambhuda of our village has passed away very recently. The villagers will assemble for condolence. It would be better to have settlement. Basto Ji , the village barber had suggested that if we confess and change our statement in the court, settlement is possible.’
I said,’ No-no mother, how can we do that? If we confessed, not only we, the villagers will also be in trouble. There is no room for settlement. Today when we are witnessing the end of monarchs, what is the power of a Sarpanch. We will resolve the issue only through court.’
‘It doesn’t convince me, my son…….. Forget what happened in the past. When the other villagers are not bothered, why should we feel the itch unnecessarily? It would be appropriate to have settlement.’
‘No father, we must resist otherwise all our past struggle will go in vain. The old saying is that gods may even be moved with the use of will power.’
‘But, my son..’
‘No, there is no need of doubt.’
‘See, my son; who is in our favor? M.L.A,…S.D.O., B.D.O., Pradhan., Patvari.,…from minister to constable all are supporting the Sarpanch. Their support is natural because they are all benefitted by him. All are obliged through the power of bribe.’
‘No, father..As long as these bastards..’
‘Speak slowly, my son…Walls have also got ears. Still we have to face troublesome time. You don’t know what we are tolerating. Only the shade of the Margosa tree in the courtyard yields me shelter. I can go nowhere else.’
‘See father, when we have forced out head to struggle, there is no point to fear the consequences. Don’t underrate the law. Law is law. It spares not even the prime minister or the president of the country. Justice may be delayed but it spares none. Law is not blind to truth. These culprits are bound to get punishment, sooner or later.’
‘My hair has not turned white in vain. One can’t play Holi without colors. People evade from punishment through unending maze of escapes. The courts tire through delay but they hit very less. It favors those who have money in pockets. In these courts the truth changes in falsehood and the falsehood in truth. In a day, no one knows how many times they ditch even God. The innocent looking people take in their hands the Gita or the Quran to take false oaths. Who is there in our village to support truth? Even God fears these impudent and brazen faced people. Who will nurture animosity with these people? All know that they can’t defend themselves from the barbarous and devilish teeth of these people.’
‘But you know, berries have thorns as well.’
‘It is absolutely true but we live in the village and we have to take care of our fields as well. I still say things are manageable. We must not miss this opportunity. All laws are made by powerful people and for their safety only. You know when two people fight one of them is bound to surrender. Let us admit that we defeated.’
‘It is not a question of defeat, but the question of justice. It is also said by elders that one who tolerates injustice is more to blame. There is no need to worry. If the hammer of law is raised, it is bound to hit.’
‘You are educated and learned therefore I must agree with you but my experience says that no one supports the weak in this world. We have survived anyhow; still we shall depend on the court. We will see what happens. The date of the decision of the court is also near.’
‘Have faith, father. The decision will go in our favor. Now fake horses can’t run.’
‘It is right. They must never run.’
‘Our horses are the genuine ones.’ Saying so my eyes had become heavy. I had fallen in deep sleep and father remained awake till midnight.
On the third day after it we were in the court. Sarpanch was also there with his bullies. Two black coats disputed vigorously in front of the judge. After some time judge gave the decision and the Sarpanch was acquitted.
‘All eyes were gazing at me and my father. We were holding our hands together, dazed and bewildered. Our blood had frozen. Father only said,’ I had told you my son; now it is not possible to even step into the village.’
Every pore of my body was agitated still I said to my father, ‘Don’t worry, father..There are still higher courts…not one but three. We shall approach there with an appeal. The culprit will certainly get punishment.’
Father’s gaze remained focused on the picture of Gandhi for a few moments. The picture was behind the seat of the judge. All of a sudden he gathered strength from some unknown source and said,’ Certainly we will fight this case further…Certainly.’
Speaking these words he came out of the court, walking gently with the support of his stick.
Translated by Dr. Megh Raj Khatri
Meethesh Nirmohi (b.30Sept.1951) is a well known story writer, poet and essayist. He has had a brilliant academic career. He writes in Hindi and Rajasthani with natural flair He has attended several national and international conferences and seminars. He has also edited the prestigious journal of Rajasthani AAGOONCH for four years. His translations have been published in several volumes and journals. He has to his credit a number of volumes of poetry and short stories. He is the recipient of a number of awards including the Murlidhar Vyas Rajasthani Katha Award (RAJASTHANI BHASHA, SAHITYA EVAM SANSKRITI ACADAMI ) for his collection of short stories ‘Amavas, Ekam ar Chand’ His story Bandhan won for him multi lingual short story award held by the renowned Telgu Journal Vipula. His poems and short stories are prescribed in the courses of different Boards and Universities. Some of his works have also been broadcast and telecast by Aakashvani and Durdarshan.
AAGOONCH ,Rajola house,Bhanwarani Haveli Parisar,
Dr. Megh Raj Khatri is a researcher, scholar and translator. He has been teaching English for the last three decades. Presently he is posted at Govt. College, Lunkaransar. As a research guide he has produced several Ph.D scholars. He has a number of publications in reputed journals and edited volumes. He has edited and translated a volume of stories entitled ‘ 11 Stories of Madan Saini ‘. As an educationist he has won significant respect from students and teaching community.
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