The Truth Of The Porch
The Truth Of The Porch
It looks as though the bands will be played. All efforts made by me seem to have gone futile. Elder sister Urmila told her younger sister Chotu.
“Didi, you have got a place to live with aunt. Then why do you worry? Brother– in– law is not taking you out from there.If he gets annoyed, will uncle and aunt keep you? You live with respect in In-laws house. Be happy!" Chotu tried to console Urmila.
It was only Choti who met Urmila without the knowledge of others. She was trying to heal the wound of her elder sister." I shall always be there to help you." Chotu gave this assurance to Urmila. How stealthily she came to aunt’s house and encouraged me saying, "Didi be bold, I shall see to it that brother-in-law is not allowed to go for his second marriage. I am making all efforts possible."
Urmila knew the in and out of this house. She had studied the moods of her mother-in-law well. She was familiar with the behavior of her husband. No objectionable words are tolerated in this house. But Urmila believed in living with authority in this house.
Urmila's heart had erupted like a volcano. A year had passed in making all efforts to prevent Raghubir Singh from his second marriage. She was convinced that Slokas of Saptapadi and going round the ritualistic fire, “Agni” had some significance. No responsible bridegroom should chant the mantra and forget the vow taken later. Urmila was confident that she would make him rethink. But could she succeed? Her whole effort was no better than searching pearls in a desert.
Mother-in-law starts counting the comforts provided by the house. Urmila gets worried, thinking that whatever pleasure she gets as a charity only reminds her of her helplessness. But she was helpless as her fate itself was so bad Bearing years of neglect Urmila’s eyes looked sad. She had stopped crying. She pretended herself to be strong.
"When had the crack developed to get discarded from the house?" Urmila started thinking. The skill of a daughter–in–law which is appreciated by others as a boon proved to be a bane in this house.
In those days no importance was given to the education of a girl child. Urmila was educated by her father and could recite Ram Charith Manas, Durga Chalisa, Sapta Shati, etc. Father gave a few religious books to her along with dowry. This was the reason for her to sit with those books at her spare time.
One day Seth Ratan Singh, who was proud of his daughter in law for reading Ramayan and Gita came to the courtyard and requested her to recite the Slokas of Ramayan for him. It was the practice in the house to cover her head with a veil (Ghunghat) before her father-in-law. Urmila did not come in front of him but recited from the inside the shrine room. Seth Ratan Singh was overwhelmed. Her tune, spelling, divinity and proficiency were praised by him profusely. Mother in law got annoyed as to how without shame she could do all these before her father-in-law. This news reached all members of the family, including her son.
Suspicious minded Raghubir Singh, who had no interest in his wife heard her mother silently. Seth’s family was well respected in the village. Raghubir Singh had the belief that a daughter-in-law of the house must be sober to uphold the dignity of the family. Urmila wondered why they had such a false pride. She tried her best to change that wrong notion but where submissively accepting reasonable and unreasonable things was the practice, she could not break the barrier. Urmila's scissor-like tongue proved herself to be a haughty woman.
Urmila was sadly depressed hearing abuses from her mother in law.. Her son was always in hot temper. Seth Ratan Singh, who had good reputation outside, was a mere puppet inside the four walls of his house.
Urmila was overtaken by another deficiency now. Five years’ of her married life could not give her a child to make her mother-in-law, a grand mother. Girls, who got married after her, could fill their houses with happiness. Now on this ground her mother-in-law wished that her son, Raghubir Singh should be married to another girl. But Urmila was not ready to leave the house.
Seth Ratan Singh had gone out for a few days. One day the mother-in-law told her son, making Urmila listen "Raghubir, for quite sometime, Urmila has not gone anywhere outside.. She must be interested to see places. You may take her for a sacred bath in Ganges."
Listening to mother and agreeing to her proposal showed their deep love which was most surprising to Urmila. She had a little doubt. She wanted to ask Raghubir Singh what goodness they had found in her to shower such a love to her. But seeing some happiness coming to her in life, she refrained.
They left the house early morning, but by the time they reached sangam- confluence of Ganga and Jamuna, it was almost noon. Ganges was dazzling in the rays of the sun. By watching closely, the rising waves could be seen. Similar waves of happiness were rising in Urmila’s heart too. Seeing the change in her husband she felt greatly obliged to mother Ganges and prayed for the love to remain eternally. Raghubir Singh was also praying but his prayer was for bonding their relationship or otherwise was better known to him only.
Urmila was literate but still she was from a village. She had come out with her husband, with a little dream, a little faith, and a lot of innocence. She felt blessed by the Darshan of Ganges. Raghubir wanted to win her confidence by taking her out and moving farther. It was getting dark but they were not in a hurry. It mattered little for Urmila whether it was evening or night so long as her husband was with her. After the darshan Raghubir Singh brought Urmila to a dam by the time the evening had turned to night.There were some small temples near the dam where a group of men comprising mostly by Pandas and a few boats men (PurushMandali) were found sitting. Some boys were playing cards near the holy men (sadhus). There were two or three shops selling materials required for puja. They were getting closed. Raghubir Singh told Urmila, “We shall stay here for the night and go to Allahabad tomorrow for sightseeing before leaving for home.”
“Where will we stay” asked Urmila in a suspecting tone.
"You don’t worry for anything. I shall arrange everything”.
Looking around all sides Raghubir said, ”Just behind this temple, a little below, perhaps there is a Dharmshala. Please wait here, I shall come after finding it out.”
After moving a few steps, Raghubir Singh returned suddenly. He whispered something into her ears. Urmila removed the necklace, earrings, and other ornaments she had on her body and handed them to her husband..
Raghubir Singh stepped down from the dam and went in search of Dharmshala. Urmila stood there waiting for her husband to come. People nearby started staring at Urmila. She got a little scared. By now the lights were glowing everywhere. Urmila could make out that there was a colony on the right side of the dam.There was a huge playground, in a lonely place, just one and half kilometres away. The town started from the other side of the play playground. She looked beyond the dam and found utter darkness for a long distance. In the midst of the darkness somewhere mother Ganges was flowing. But it was difficult to find it in the darkness. There were no lights on the dam. Chimney, lamp or lantern was needed to find the way.
Urmila was struck with fear and anxiety when several disturbing thoughts came to her mind making her unsecured. She was compelled to believe that Raghubir Singh was facing some problem. She felt the possibility of getting cheated but her feminine instinct prompted her to wait patiently for his safe return. Even after a long wait Raghubir Singh did not turn up. The journey which started with a lot of optimism would end up in a tragedy was unimaginable.
There was a small temple just opposite to the place where Urmila was standing. One aged pujari was sitting there. Somehow Urmila found a ray of hope. She mustered courage, went to the temple and sat by the side of Baba- wishing him pranam. Baba blessed Urmila raising his hand when she started crying explaining her predicament.
Raghubir Singh was unconcerned about Urmila who was left alone seventy kilometres away from home. There was no possibility of her returning home. She might die or sit with some panda grinding sandal paste. Raghubir was happy with his achievement since he had taken possessions of all her ornaments, including money. The news was spread all over the village that there was a huge crowd at sangam, and while she was getting down to take a dip in sangam she got drowned or else taking the advantage of the crowd she had escaped to an unknown destination. Who will trust a bad character? I was busy in bath and meditation but by the time my attention went to her she was not to be found anywhere. I made intensive search to locate her but losing all hope in the end had to return heart broken.
But Raghubir Singh got the shock of his life when Urmila appeared near the door as a stranger the next day. He was surprised but mother-in-law stood adamantly. "Having spent the night outside, a bad character lady has no permission for entry in this house" said mother-in-law.
Urmila’s consciousness revolted, nerves got tensed in defence. She thought of shouting and telling her mother in law that if at all she wanted to punish, she should punish her son who left me helpless and ran away. She wanted to ask her where was her self respect? Thanks to pujari Baba because of whom I am standing on my doorstep safely. But she remained silent. She knew that everyone was trying hard to evict her from the house. Even after showing a little anger, a little authority and pleading in all possible manner the door was not opened for Urmila.
Like any other woman from a village Urmila, being filled with fear, shame, shyness etc due to the internal pain and trauma, proved that she was slightly different from others. By casting aside her fear, shame, shyness etc she had the courage to fight injustice. She spent the whole night amidst barking dogs but did not go to the neighbours for any help or shelter.
Raghubir Singh's aunt came next day morning and after scolding her sister-in- law wished to take Urmila to her house. Urmila refused to go saying, "If you want to get me entry, get me in this house where I have come after marriage. I shall not go to any other place.” But when the uncle pleaded with her she could not refuse because of respect and finally agreed to go to their house.
Urmila could not stop Raghubir Singh's second marriage. Toiling the whole day and waking the whole night Urmila spent two years finding solution for her problem. It was a dark night when Raghubir Singh got married second time. He would have chanted the very same Veda mantras and repeated those sacred vows. She got up in anger but she contained herself and waited for her sleep. She thought why was she lying there? Had she any hope of Raghubir Singh's return in her life after repentance on his misdeeds. Would she pardon Raghubir Singh for accepting his mistakes. Urmila stopped thinking of Raghubir.
Father came to take her home but she refused. Something here prevented her from going. Probably her dreams, her wishes, her hopes, and something more important of all – self respect.
Past years had swallowed all desires of hers. For days she had not combed her hairs, not seen the mirror. She had almost forgotten to apply sindoor or kajal (kohl). In the midst of rustic women bound by orthodox traditions, a sensible Urmila was honoured with the title of "Mad Woman” (Pagli). When and how the name got stuck is not known correctly. For elders she was “Pagli” and for youngsters she was “Pagli Kaki”.
There was a sweet water well in front of the house. Half the village quenched their thirst in that well. Urmila was going to the well every morning and evening to fetch water. Whenever there was a crowd she used to sit under a pipal tree. Whenever Bihari was there he used to help her in filling the buckets. Urmila got some relief from pulling the bucket from the well. This routine continued for years along with the saddened and expressionless face of Urmila. One day when Urmila was pulling the bucket Bihari came there and started pulling the bucket, holding her hands. Urmila looked at Bihari. His eyes showed deep belongingness which brought a strange excitement in her and their bare eyes started taking to themselves. She wondered as to why her stony heart got melted like a candle today. Why did her normal breathing of years became faster now to thrill her? The bucket got filled. Urmila looked at Bihari once more, lifted her bucket and proceeded homewards silently.
Now she felt as if she was drowned in a strange sense of joy. The box of her ornaments, disposed in a corner for years, was opened bringing out oil, comb, bindi, kajal. Aunt gave a side glance at her and smiled. Urmila felt a little ashamed. She once again dumped the ornament box to the corner and thought of remaining in a simple manner without much of make up. But even if she wanted not to put on any show her throbbing heart prompted her otherwise.
Urmila feels happy to see Bihari when he fills her bucket. She wondered how could the change come to her in such a short time. How her monotonous life of daily routine got changed so much. Several such questions came to her mind but she had no answer. She did not want to be a loser in the game. If she does not want to lose in the game she has to tell Bihari not to fill her buckets. What does he think of himself? A wife left by her husband will not be so weak for others to show sympathy and then cash on her.
Urmila was in turmoil. When she tried to get out this mess she was getting more entangled.
By seeing the change in Urmila people started whispering. Raghubir Singh who had no concern for her desires, feelings or needs, who turned his eyes seeing her shattered life became aware now of her turbulent life.
One day Urmila was sitting under the pipal tree with empty bucket when Raghubir Singh reached there suddenly. Urmila got a shock seeing him there .She stood up where she was. Raghubir Singh roared, "Why did you get up in fear? Is it because you are caught thieving."
The words pierced Urmila like an arrow. Still swallowing his words she asked fearlessly, “What do you mean by thieving?”
“Beware, mind your words. What is wrong if I wait for someone?”
Raghubir Singh didn’t expect this behavior from her. He was stunned.His tone became soft.
He said,“ Hear me carefully.You should not face someone eye to eye. I would not like to see my family’s reputation coming down as long as I am alive”.
Urmila roared, "Stop, I say stop. "You show so much concern for your reputation. When you abandoned me among vultures where was your reputation? For years when I am working for others you do not mind for your reputation. Who are you to stop me? You have left me. You got married for the second time. On what basis you show your authority now? What I do is none of your concern. Do you think that I do not have the ability to understand rationally?
Urmila’s facial features changed and she talked angrily. Raghubir Singh looked at Urmila confused.
Urmila shrieked, "What are you looking at. Go and enjoy with your wife. Forget me. I am not a rascal like you I have perfect understanding of right and wrong." Urmila was shaking in anger. Raghubir Singh was feeling ashamed. He looked around to see that nobody was watching him. Giving an angry look to Urmila he left that place.
Urmila sat at her place.The storm inside her made more noise than the crows on the tree. She sat drowning and resurfacing herself from the storm. She came back to her senses only when Bihari brought the filled buckets before her. Urmila got up hurriedly. It was not easy for her to extricate herself from the past. She brought the bucket home with her lifeless hands.
It was almost midnight when Raghubir Singh was tossing and turning in his bed. The insult he faced today did not allow him to sleep. An ordinary woman gave such a reply. What is her status? But see her tongue which works like sharp scissors. I cannot see her playing love game with a stranger in my presence. Yes, it will never happen.
It was not hot still Raghubir Singh was sweating. The poison injected by Urmila was disturbing him badly. On the other hand Urmila slept well after many years.
One day when Urmila was combing her hair, aunt came and informed her that Raghubir Singh had beaten Bihari badly. Bihari was unable to get up. It looked as though his leg got fractured. The comb fell from Urmila’s hand. She had the inkling that Raghubir Singh will not keep quiet but he will take revenge this way was not expected by her. "Was this a punishment for filling two buckets of water"?
Urmila stopped going to the well. She got the news of Bihari’s hospitalisation. His relatives wanted to lodge a police case. But Bihari asked them not to do so. One of the legs of Bihari was to be amputated .There was a news that Bihari had gone to Raghibir Singh's house for burglary when he was caught and beaten.
Urmila again went into a long depression. She did not like the place and wanted to go elsewhere. She took a decision to leave the village.
Once on a hot summer day, Seth Ji was taking a nap. Urmila had come out of the house on some pretext. Coming near the well she stopped. She looked at the pipal tree and the well to her heart’s content. She remembered Bihari and wanted to see him. But she moved forward bearing silently.
By evening the news spread about the disappearance of Urmila. Searches were made at every place. Searches were made even inside wells and ponds but Urmila was not found. Raghubir Singh was happy. No body desired to search further. After two to four months the news came that Urmila had gone to her elder sister’s place. Then the news came that she had jumped into the well.
She was a Sati, Urmila Sati.
‘It was told that the attitude of her brother -in -law was not good towards her. Urmila gave her life but did not allow to lose herself respect”
“She was a daughter -in – law of a reputed family and followed its true tradition”
‘Her husband had left her, but she remained a Pativrata.
“She became immortal.”
“She became a Devi”
There were as many tributes as there were people.
Hearing the word Pativrata, Raghubir got a brilliant idea to make the name of the family immortal.Publicity was made that Urmila came into the dreams of family members.The difficulties of the family were getting reduced.
Raghubir Singh's mother got the dream that Urmila wants to permanently reside below the pipal tree. Raghubir started taking actions for her Ichchapoorthy.
Raghubir has seen the world. He knew how easily people forget. He knew that his misdeeds would also be forgotten one day. Gradually a Chabootara was made around the pipal tree. People started praying there. Raghubir knew that it would enhance the prestige of the family and make it eternal He had played a clever game. Poor and hungry people will come to the Chabootara and lessen their burden.
Gradually the news spread that Urmila Aka "Mad Girl"or "Pagli Kaki" ‘s blessings fulfils the wishes of the people. A lot of lamps were lit in the evening at the Chabootara. Those who had more wishes lighted more lamps.The cleanliness of the Chabootara is entrusted to a pujari under the upper vision of Raghubir Singh. Now a Mela is held every week there.
Bihari used go round the village but did not venture to go near the pipal tree. What difference does it make, if Bihari doesn’t go to Chabootara. Raghubir Singh has become immortal .By making a Chabootara, and arranging a Mela every week, the impression which Raghubir Singh has created about his sense of surrender to his loving wife was admired and appreciated by all wholeheartedly. Raghubir Singh has left this world sixty to seventy years before but still the Chabootara is dazzling with lamps and the family wields enormous power in the village till date.
Original Story:- A Short Story In Hindi " Chabutare Ka Sach" by Asha Pandey