Sonu Sonkar

© Copyright 2002 by Sonu Sonkar


Photo of a stark tree with a brilliant light behind it.

     "Shiv  ji,  was my request a great deal for you?" Sanju has a photo of Lord
Shiva  in  his  room.  He  usually talks to him, but tonight it's something
different.  His  boiling  emotions start coming out. "Give us peace, settle
down  the  things in this house, comfort bhai and bhabhi. I asked only this
much  and  you  couldn't  do  it.  And  people  say  you  are  God, you are
omnipotent. Tell me who are we. We are your creatures. You have created us.
When  you  can't  take  care  of your creatures, then why the hell have you
created  them? Open your eyes and look at me. I'm talking to you. I'm not a
fool."  He  shouts, but to no avail. Lord Shiva is looking as placid and as
riveting  in  his  meditation as he usually looks. "You are a skunk, a real
skunk.  You  are  no better than a loutish fellow who produces children and
then  leaves  them  on the road to live the life of pigs. Who knows whether
you  are  listening to me or not. But that doesn't effect me now. I no more
care  for you. If you don't care for me, I also don't care for you. Listen,
you dog I hate you."
     With all these burning thoughts he doesn't know when he slept. At this
time  Ms.  Sleep is completely soothing and mothering him. Sanju is looking
so  calm  and  so undisturbed in the lap of nap. Seems as if Lord Shiva has
sent  Ms. Sleep to assuage him. But it's not like that, for very soon Sanju
wakes  up with a gust of pain in his right ear. A little insect has entered
his  ear. Whenever it creeps inside, a strange wave of pain travels through
his  body.  He  is  confused  whether  he should wake someone up or not. He
doesn't  want  to disturb anyone, rather he doesn't want to disturb himself
more  for he's sure, after what has happened tonight nobody can sleep. Just
half  an  hour  sleep he has had, he sees in the clock. He goes in bathroom
and  sprinkles  some  water in his ear. The little creature inside tries to
escape  and in the process causes another wave of pain to pass by his body.
He  is  regretting now. He must not have reviled Shiv ji. He realizes  that
this  is  the  punishment  Lord  is giving him for his crossing his limits.
"Sorry,  I'm  really  sorry  Shiv  ji. I should not have talked to you like
that.  I'm  stupid.  I'm  an idiot. Why have you given ear to the talk of a
mean  fellow  like  me.  Please,  forgive  me  God, please." Regretting his
behaviour he comes back to his bed where Ms. Sleep is waiting for him.
     Next  morning  when  he  wakes  up,  nothing looks unusual except that
Shikha his bhabhi hasn't come to wake him. He gets up, finishes his morning
routine,  takes  bath and dresses himself. He is afraid whether he will get
his  breakfast  today  or  not.  Just  after third day of her arrival here,
Shikha took the complete charge of this house, giving his mother ample time
to  rest  and meditate. Until last few weeks she has been looking after all
the  four  members  of  this  house,  he,  Anjan  his bhai and his maa-baba
happily, performing the role of an ideal bahu. Even after the trouble arose
she  continued with her ideal bahu performance. The only difference was now
she  doesn't  appear  as  happy  as she used to. But after last night Sanju
can't  expect her to prepare breakfast. He thinks of what to do. He doesn't
have even money to eat something in school canteen. Suddenly the door opens
and  Shikha appears with a glass of milk and some bread slices in her hand.
This  is  not  his  normal  breakfast,  but sufficient to satiate his empty
stomach.  "Take your lunch in canteen today," a dim voice strikes his ears,
"tell  everyone  that  breakfast is there in the kitchen." By her voice and
eyes  he knows that she has not slept in the night. He takes his breakfast.
"I'm going school maa." He says loudly anticipating that she will ask if he
has  any  money. "You have any money or not?" It's not his maa. It's Anjan.
He  keeps  quiet.  "Take  your lunch in canteen." Anjan gives him money. He
takes it and leaves.
     Just  one  and  half year back things were so different in this house,
when  it  used  to be a happy family. Sanju was so happy with his maa-baba,
Anjan  and  his  Shiv  ji.  Being a shy guy he doesn't have friends, and he
doesn't  need  them.  Of  course,  who  else  is needed when Shiv ji is his
friend? He doesn't know himself when and how this friendship flourished. He
can  talk  to  Shiv  ji for hours, rather he does talk to him for hours. He
talks  to  him on every matter. He has no inhibitions from him. He believes
that  Shiv  ji  and  only  Shiv  ji  is the one on this earth who knows him
completely,  who  knows  every  face and every aspect of him. Then there is
Anjan  who  too  is  close  to  him,  but with some limitations, some moral
bindings. He enjoys his company.
     That  was  a  usual evening when the two brothers were together. Anjan
was  ordering  ice  creams  at  the  counter  of an ice-cream bar and Sanju
standing outside in a corner of the road was enjoying peeps of the 'evening
birds'  passing  by  the bar. Suddenly a two wheeler hit him from the back.
Somehow  he  managed  to avoid kissing the ground. He looked back. A pretty
girl  was struggling hard for not to collapse on the ground with her moped.
Her  moped, refusing to stand now was lying comfortably on the road, and so
was she. She was looking damn glamorous. Her eyes were so live. Sanju never
likes  any  film  actress  in  particular. He likes them in parts. He likes
Kajol's  eyes. He finds Urmila's nose beautiful. He goes crazy when he sees
Aishwarya's  lips. And now here was this girl, a cocktail of all the three.
Her  lips were parting and closing intermittently. "She is scorning me!" He
came  to his senses. "These boys, God Knows what to do with them" she spoke
to  herself. "What do you think of yourself?" she turned to Sanju, "What do
you  think  of  this road? Is it a garden where you are having your evening
walk?"  Sanju  began  to  grow uncomfortable for he could see so many Sunny
Deol's  rising around them and approaching to help this damsel in distress.
"Hey,  hey, relax, relax ---- calm down." Anjan came into the scene. "Thank
God  you are here Anju," the girl took a breath of relief, "these teenagers
of  today,  they  are just incurable." Anjan and Sanju looked at each other
and  smiled.  Now  it  was  her  turn  to be surprised. "Sanju, right?" She
recovered  very  quickly. "My friend, Shikha." Anjan introduced her to him,
and  then  all  three  were  in  a fit of laughter. They spent that evening
together. After that such evenings were not unusual.
     At  first Sanju didn't realized their affair. He, at one point of time
even  started  feeling  that  she  was  inclined to him. And he had reasons
behind  that  feeling.  Once  he  and  Anjan both offered her their jackets
simultaneously.  She accepted his. Not only this, whenever they had to move
by  the side of road, she preferred him to walk with. Whenever they went to
discotheque,  she  danced with him. Then one day Anjan took her to the home
and  introduced to his maa-baba as their would-be-bahu. It was then when he
knew  that  he  was  wrong.  Now  he  understood her behavioral inclination
towards  him.  It was, he thought because of a relation that is regarded so
divinely  pure and beautiful in literatures and in society. The relation of
dever  and  bhabhi.  The  relation, he and Shikha were going to be bound in
soon.  His  maa-baba  were  not  against the marriage. But they were not in
support  either.  However  things were not the same in Shikha's family. Her
parents  not  only disliked Anjan but also protested strongly against their
marriage.  Anjan  and  Shikha decided not to sacrifice themselves for their
families  and  they married in court. Abusing her as a curse to the family,
Shikha's  parents  broke all the relations with her and disclaimed her from
their  property. That day when Sanju returned from school, he was amused to
see  Shikha at the home, "Nice surprise to see you here." "We have a bigger
surprise  for you." Shikha replied. "We got married." Anjan shocked him. He
was  speechless.  He didn't know how to respond. "Don't---- don't tell such
jokes."  He  could  hardly  speak.  "It's  not  any joke. We got married in
court."  Anjan  explained.  "Well,  congrates then, congrates. But I'll not
speak  to  you  bhai. You didn't tell me." complained Sanju. Anjan excused,
"We  wanted  to  give you a surprise. Isn't it a nice one?" Sanju marveled,
"Umm-----  yes.  Now I can see why she loves you. You got a style bhai." He
was  happy. But his maa-baba were dejected. It was not obvious. It was very
obvious by their faces. Indications were clear. They have given her room in
the  house,  not  in their hearts. They have not accepted her by heart. Two
days went by and there were literally no talks between his maa-baba and his
bhabhi.  Shikha tried several times to speak to them but they refused. They
even  stopped  talking  to  Anjan.  This hurt her. He saw her crying in her
room.  He  wanted to go and comfort her but he couldn't dare to face her in
that mood of hers.
     He was in a dilemma, "Maa-baba are right. This marriage and subsequent
reaction  of bhabhi's family has expelled bhai and bhabhi from the society.
But  maa-baba have to still live in the society. Who cares for society? But
we  have to care for our parents. After all, they are our parents. They are
the  ones  who look after us, who nurture us. We grow in their shadow. They
work  hard  and earn money. Whom for? For us. Of course, if they have given
us  birth  it's  their duty to nurture us, to educate us. But when they are
fulfilling  their  duties, shall we also not fulfil ours towards them? They
devote  their  whole life to us, what do we do? We grow and stop caring for
what they like or what they don't. We start thinking of ourselves to be the
owners  of  our  life,  which  is  given by them. Bhai should not have gone
against  their  will." He was convinced. But he also couldn't disregard his
bhai's  stand  completely.  " Of course they have a right on our lives, but
what  will happen after 40 ? 45 years when they may not be with us. At that
old  age, if someone of my choice will be near me, life will be so easy for
me. We are grown up now. And if their educating us is successful then we do
have a capability of making decisions, a capability of knowing what's right
and  what's  not,  what's  good  and  what's not. They should have faith in
ourselves  and  in  the decisions we take because it will not be a faith in
us,  rather it will be a faith in the education they have given us." He was
totally confused.
     "Shiv ji," he prayed, "I don't know what's right and what's wrong. You
know  far  better  than  me.  All I pray is, please settle down the things,
please."  And  the very next morning he noticed the change. Shikha took the
unsolicitous charge of the family from his maa. Within few weeks she became
the  prime  mover  of  the  family.  If anybody needed anything she was the
person  to  contact. Maa-baba asked Sanju when they needed something. Sanju
asked his bhabhi. And bhabhi, refusing to take any medium for communication
directly  approached  them.  She  did  the needful very efficiently. If one
wants  one can please God, maa-baba are just normal and humble human being.
They  started  relenting. Even neighbors began to come to this house to see
Sanju's bhabhi. And very soon they started envying maa-baba for having such
a  nice  bahu and that too in a very unconventional way. Seemed things were
straightening  up until one day when Shikha suddenly announced that she was
going  to  do  a job, a job in modeling profession. At first nobody took it
seriously,  but when she insisted and applied for it everybody was stunned,
including  Anjan.  They  all tried hard to make her give up her silly idea.
But  in  vain.  Sanju,  by the way Shikha had won his maa-baba's heart knew
that  she was not going to give up so easily. He once had this thought that
she  should  be  a model without realizing the terribleness of the thought.
"After  all everybody has an equal right to both; to dream, and then to try
to  make  their  dreams  come true." He saw no harm in her thinking. At the
same  time he didn't see any flaw in his bhai's or maa-baba's logic either.
"Can  I  bear  a  wife  who  is a model? Who is a public property? A public
property? No, I never can bear such a wife." He was again in dilemma.
     The  matter  stirred  up  further  when Shikha got the call letter for
interview.  That  day Shikha had a very heated dispute with Anjan. "Please,
don't  be  so  loud.  Neighbors  are  listening."  This was all Sanju could
contribute  in  their  arguments.  He wasn't sure whose side to take. "Shiv
ji," he prayed, "Please settle down the matter, please. For the sake of our
friendship  please  comfort bhai and bhabhi----- please." But all was going
in vain as matter was bringing more and more tension in the family. And the
last  straw  was  her getting an offer letter for the job. That day for the
first  time  in his life Sanju saw his bhai in such a rage. Probably it was
the  first  time  for  Shikha  also  to see Anjan so furious. His eyes were
explosively  red. Had Sanju been in place of Shikha, he would have given up
just  by  seeing  his bhai in such a fury. But that was not Sanju, that was
Shikha.  She  refused to relent. Finding no other way out of the situation,
Anjan  tried  to  compromise  saying that he would not mind her doing a job
other  than  modeling.  At  this Shikha boiled up stigmatizing him of being
conservative,  and orthodox, and what not. Sanju was not listening to them.
He,  with  closed  eyes  was  praying to Shiv ji to settle down everything.
Suddenly  he  heard  a  slap.  He  opened his eyes. Shikha was lying on the
floor,  with  five  fingers  engraved on her red cheek. Drops of tears were
seeping  through  her  Kajol  like  eyes.  It was that sight which made him
revile his friend, his Shiv ji that badly.
     Sanju returns from school. Tension has not lessened a bit in the home.
He  doesn't  know what to do. Tonight he'll prepare the dinner for all." He
decides.  This  way  may be some tension is released, he thinks. He goes to
the  kitchen.  His  maa is already there. "Give me some work maa, I'll help
you  in  cooking."  His  maa smiles and gives him vegetables to cut. In the
night everybody takes dinner except Shikha. Sanju goes and asks her to take
the dinner. She doesn't respond. She is sitting like a statue. Anjan hasn't
come yet.
     Now  he  comes.  He  is  drunk.  He directly comes to Shikha, his legs
trembling,  "I'm  sorry.  I  should not have raised my arm against you. You
were  right.  I'm  filthy, I'm dirty, I'm mean. But, I love you. I love you
Shikha,  I  love  ----  you"  Shikha  stands and locks herself in bathroom.
"Shikha,  Shikha listen to me. Slap me, beat me but please, for God sake do
talk  to me," requested Anjan, "somebody please go and tell this silly girl
that  I  love  her."  He begins to cry like a small child. This is also the
first  time  when  Sanju is seeing his brother breaking into tears. He runs
away  to  his  room  and  lies  on  the  bed. He feels his cheeks numb with
moisture. He is also weeping. He sleeps with the hope that every thing will
be fine tomorrow.
     Next  day  he wakes up and somnolently comes in the hall. Suddenly all
his  sleep  goes  away.  Shikha  is there, with her luggage ready to leave.
"Tell  Anju  that  I'm leaving." She said. Sanju comes to her feet, "Don't,
don't,  please  don't leave bhabhi." "I don't want to leave without telling
Anju."  She directly looks into his eyes. He rushes to Anjan, "Bhai wake up
bhai.  Bhabhi  is  going. Bhabhi is leaving bhai wake up." He shakes Anjan.
Anjan  wakes  up and comes in the hall. All five in the family are standing
there  in  the  hall  silently.  "If  you  leave, you are going to loose me
forever."  Anjan  breaks  the silence. Shikha takes her luggage and leaves.
Anjan  is seeing her going far from him. She disappears. He is still seeing
there  as  in  the  hope  that she will turn back and come to her Anju. She
doesn't.  She  has gone. Anjan keeps on looking in that direction. At first
nobody  notices but soon after, all three notice the abnormality of Anjan's
behavior.  He  is  still standing gazing in the direction Shikha went. Baba
shakes him, "Anjan, Anjan." He looks at him with dead eyes as if he doesn't
recognize him. He looks strangely at all the three. "Bhai," Sanju hugs him.
He  stands  there  with  no  emotions  on his face. Seems as if someone has
pulled  out  life  from  him. Seeing her son like a dead body maa collapses
into tears. Baba tries to console her.
     Days  are  passing  very fast. All the members of the house have a set
routine now. They take breakfast in morning, then take Anjan to doctors and
psychiatrists.  These visits take almost their whole day. They come back in
night  and  go  to  sleep.  There  is  no improvement in Anjan's condition.
Doctors  have  now  given up. Psychiatrists say that only one hope is there
and that is Shikha. Finally, bowing down to fate they admit Anjan in Mental
Hospital.  Trips  to  doctors  and  psychiatrists have exhausted the family
financially.  Now  apart  from  Anjan's treatment, there is another problem
they  are going to face. How will Sanju continue his studies? After Anjan's
illness the only source of income left in the family is baba's pension. But
it can provide only a mere subsistence.
     "People  say,"  says Sanju to Shiv ji, "that nothing goes against your
will.  Whatever  is  happening  in  this  house,  is  it your will? Are you
punishing us for something? But what are you punishing us for? For the sins
you  made us to commit, for nothing goes against your will. You are master,
we  are  slave.  You  make  us  cry,  you  make us laugh, you make us angry
according  to  your  wish. So that you can clap and marvel at your power of
bending  us  in any way you like.----- What will you do this time if I call
you  rascal?  You will put a bigger insect in my ear! O.k., go ahead put it
in.  I  challenge you. More the insects you put in my ear, the more I abuse
you, you rascal, you scoundrel. Come on, I'm waiting for insect, skunk." He
keeps on reviling Shiv ji until he gets exhausted of abuses.
     Next  morning  when he wakes up, he doesn't see any change in Shiv ji.
He  looks  perfectly normal and completely placid. "You bas---" he tries to
continue the last night process but he can't. An ulcer has developed in his
mouth. "You are omnipotent." He mocks at Shiv ji. He slept for long he sees
in the clock and comes in the hall. "Bhabhi --"
     Shikha  is there with her luggage. He rushes to her. He can't speak to
her because of ulcer. She doesn't say anything. She stares at the floor. It
is obvious by her face that she knows what has happened here behind her.
     All  four  are  rushing  now to hospital with a new hope. Sanju thanks
Shiv  ji  for  sending his bhabhi back. He is dead sure that Anjan will get
well  now.  He  has  seen this happening in several movies. In the hospital
arrangements  are  made  and  Shikha is braught up in front of Anjan. Anjan
stared  at  her.  His  eyes  still dead. He has not recognized her also. No
improvement in Anjan's behavior. All there hopes are shattered.
     Shikha  lives  with  them. She no more likes her job but she has to go
with it for she knows the family needs her financial support. Sanju doesn't
talk  to  Shiv  ji now. He tries to validate his stand, "When a man creates
something, he tests it. If it passes the test he keeps it else he throws it
in  the dustbin. Same is the case with Shiv ji. He creates us. Obviously he
will test us. If we pass the test he stands by us else he rejects us to our
fate."  He  is  convinced.  But  this  conviction  is ephemeral for another
thought arose inside him, "But Shiv ji is not a man. He is GOD!"

Sonu Sonkar is a software engineer in Banglore, India.

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