NOBODY LIGHTS A CANDLE - 18 in English Social Stories by Anjali Deshpande books and stories Free | NOBODY LIGHTS A CANDLE - 18

NOBODY LIGHTS A CANDLE - 18

NOBODY LIGHTS A CANDLE

Anjali Deshpande

18

When Varun got home licking an ice cream his grandmother was slamming the fridge door. “Just look, from when is that dahi sitting here? It is covered with moss. This is how she throws money. Wastes everything. Why should she set so much yogurt? I don’t even touch yogurt…”

Adhirath raised his eyebrows at Varun. “Why, my darling son, will you eat some dahi?” Both laughed uproariously.

His dad came in holding on to his lungi with one hand and half a dozen bananas in the other. “He gave it. Did I not say he is asking for ten rupees more…a government letter has arrived for you. Just see what it is.”

A brown envelope lay on the table that he had not noticed.

Adhirath opened it. It was the notice for the enquiry. He had to appear next Wednesday. He could bring his lawyer if he chose to. It was his right, he could make his statement or appoint a legal representative to do it. He felt his heart racing. He wished he had had his lunch at Saroj’s place. Now he would not be able to eat a morsel.

When Pushpa returned home in the evening, she read the notice and quietly put on the saucepan for tea.

“He has been sitting depressed ever since he saw it,” her mother-in-law said.

“He loses heart at the smallest thing. When you have a job like this you also have to have some guts. What was the need to join the police force if…”

“So what else could I have done? Is it easy to get a job? How does it matter to you? you are the type who would say become a bus driver, or a conductor.”

“Listen to him! Have you heard what your darling son said…”

“Why are you bringing her in?” Adhirath suddenly exploded. “How high were your ambitions for me I know! Look at the name you gave me. Adhirath. Wow, what a name, such a fantastic choice. What did you think, I would become the driver of a Mercedes?”

“Does anyone else have such a nice name? What is wrong with the name? It comes from the Mahabharat. He brought up Karna.”

“A driver, that is what he was …”

“He drove a rath. A carriage of the princes. The lord Krishna himself drove a rath. He became sarathi.”

“What are you talking about at such a time,” said Shakuntala Rani coming to the outer room. She had got some mathri with pickles. Adhirath liked it a lot. There was saltless mathri that goes so well with pickles, she got what she had, salted ones. “You don’t even know how to boost his courage. Keep arguing all the time.”

“Oh, come and pamper him, then,” Daulatram hit back. “The sooner the matter is settled, the sooner he will get back to his job. What else will he learn now at home? Will roll rotis? If you look at the way things are nowadays, that is all there is left for men to do,” he said taunting his daughter-in-law who was entering with cups of tea on a tray. “When women start wearing trousers those who should wear trousers will knead flour…”

Ignoring him Pushpa said, “You should get a lawyer…”

“He will charge ten twenty grand,” said Adhir spreading pickles on the mathri. “Will see what happens.”

“You should have applied for an early hearing yourself. It has been nearly a year now. It had to happen someday. Once it is over, at least the matter will end.”

“I wanted it to keep getting delayed. They will find me guilty.”

“Not at all,” Pushpa said promptly. “They have to protect their own. How can the department find you guilty?”

“We are in the department but we are not one of them. You know this as well as me. We shall always remain outsiders. In fifteen years I got one promotion. You got two. Does anyone have to wait so long for promotions. So don’t talk rot.”

““With women it is common,” she said. “Even among women, with me it is double discrimination. That is all right. I am quite happy to be where I am on the helpline. At least I have a shift duty. Now that I have a day shift I can at least get time to spend with my son.” She sipped at her tea. “I say, engage a lawyer.”

“Can’t you talk to someone? You too have bosses, officers, they can do something to help,” Shakuntala said.

“Arre, you think she will talk to someone…”

“That son of Buddhan’s sister-in-law…”

“I don’t know what rubbish you keep talking about. Which Buddhan?” Daulatram said contemptuously.

“How do I know? You were the one who said Buddhan’s saali’s son will talk …about bahu’s pormotion.”
“Mummyji, leave it be. I am okay as an SI. If I become an inspector I may be posted in a thana. Then I don’t know I may have to work all the time, there will neither be day nor night for me.”

“Arre, Buddhan is her mamaji’s saali’s dewar. He is posted at the headquarter,” Daulatram said derisively. “Some peon, huh, who will listen to him…”

“Well, talk to him. Ask him to not try for bahu’s promotion. To first get this enquiry settled in his favour.”

“Now you are making sense. I swear, for the first time in her life some sensible words have escaped your mother’s lips. And why should they not? After all the matter concerns her darling son. Even otherwise it is not good for a woman’s status to be equal to that of the man,” Daulatram said and placing his empty tea cup on the table he said, “Was there no milk? Nowadays milk is so watery and nobody boils it for a long time to thicken it.”

“Enough,” Adhirath screamed all of a sudden. “All the time you are thinking of food.”

Everyone got upset. All conversation stopped. After a while the TV began to talk.

“You call Bahu’s mamaji, I don’t think he will do it,” Shakuntala said conspiratorially to her husband after the son and the daughter-in-law had gone upstairs.

In the room upstairs Shakuntala’s son had fallen on the bed without having taken off his chappals and covering him with a sheet Pushpa was saying, “The government’s attitude has changed now. When I applied for a job girls were not allowed to take the test for the ASI’s position. They could enter the force only as constables. Now women can become ASIs right away just like men. Had I joined as an ASI I too would have been an inspector by now. I could have then been in a position to talk to someone.”

“Everyone is concerned only about herself,” Adhirath said kicking his feet in the air. He kicked out his chappals so angrily that one hit the wall. Two strangers lay down on the same bed, their backs to each other. Even sleep was scared to come between them for a long while.

email: anjalides@gmail.com

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