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NOBODY LIGHTS A CANDLE - 46 - Last Part

NOBODY LIGHTS A CANDLE

Anjali Deshpande

46

When they returned the trunk to Ramwati in Amirpur she said nothing, did not even refuse to take it like Rakhi had. She did not say that her daughter was a characterless woman so she had no desire to touch her thing. She did not even cry when she saw the colours of those clothes. Adhir had seen both daughters-in-law peering out at them form an inner room, there may have been just one room or may be another courtyard inside but all he could see was a door and the shadows of two women who kept throwing glances at the trunk of the sister-in-law they had not been able to tolerate. He was sure they would star squabbling over the clothes the moment his and Bharat’s backs were turned. The division of the spoils of the war would begin before he could start his motorbike. He felt like pretending to have left and coming back a few minutes later to watch the ugly display of covetousness for the kurtis of the woman whose very presence they claimed had brought ill repute to the family.

Ramwati had not even given them tea. She had heard him out silently. Adhirath said.”Ammaji, I am sorry, I could not do much. You must forgive me.”

“A constable had come to tell me that someone called Parduman has been caught. I had not thought you would come, beta. She was my daughter. She as not good and she died like that too, the way she died was also not good. At least she will send one man to the gallows,” said Ramwati almost indifferently.

Suddenly he felt a wave of revulsion sweep over him for Ramwati also. He got up abruptly. When they began to leave he laid his hands on Ramwati’s shoulders and walked out in a way that she had no choice but to come out with him.

He took out the button from his pocket and opening Ramwati’s palm he placed it in it. “It is a diamond Amma. Keep it carefully hidden. Don’t let anyone know about it, not even the family. This is what she has left for you. for your old age.” He looked at the house. There was nobody at the door. Ramwati tucked the button in her blouse.

“He must have given it to her. Who gives a button to a girl?” she said.

Adhirath looked at Bharat. They agreed to keep the story to themselves.

“It was his. He must have given it to her and said hat later he would get it turned into a ring,” said Bharat saving Adhirath the trouble of responding.

Taking her hand in his Adhirath said, “Ammaji, Parduman is guilty. But he is not the only one. That Udairaj is also guilty. Many more people are guilty. They exploited her a lot. That pradhan and that ex sarpanch., they too and who knows who else. They did not kill her but what they did was also a crime. But they will not be punished.”

Ramwati’s head was shaking. A small sob escaped her. she lifted her pallu to wipe her eyes.

“That crorepati will escape. There is only one way to bring him to justice. If some people in Delhi light some candles on India Gate, a lot of people, then perhaps you can get some justice.”

Ranmwati looked at him surprised. “Beta you are very tired. You need rest.”

“No, Amma, this is the truth. Nobody lights a candle for the poor at India Gate.”

***

The month of May the month of the blazing sun. Pushpa came to tell him that she has heard that her name is in the list of those promoted to the rank of Inspector. The list that had been made so far back had not yet been announced. Even now the announcement was not official but it was expected to be made soon.

“Good. Very good. We must return the money we owe Nitesh,” he said.

“Will give him from this month’s salary,” Pushpa said. The next day she handed him five thousand rupees.

“I was thinking I should also return Bapu’s money from whatever little salary I get,” said Adhirath.

“What is the need?” Pushpa asked. “Has he said anything? Tell me. till now you never said you have to return his money.”

“I am no longer a dependent. So why should I be in his debt?”

“There is something the matter,” Pushpa said annoyed.

“I told you, I don’t feel good taking money from his small pension. You don’t want to return what he lent? Keep this money then. I will get the entire amount from my bank,” he said handing back the money she had given him. “take back your money. I have enough. I can return what I borrowed.”

Pushpa did not clench her teeth, she simply zipped her lips. It is best to keep her tongue behind the rows of teeth. The loss of income makes a man feel less of a man and a woman should not hit him with her handsome salary. Relationships are fragile. They can break. Adhirath also knows that giving explanations all the time can snap ties however strong they may be. They can even break people. Only relationships define the identities of people.

Parduman was now in juridical custody. In prison. Nitesh took the money back after refusing it several times as was expected. On his way back Adhirath had a desire to meet Udairaj. Evening time. He could be in the club. He found himself going to the club. There was a lot of hustle bustle in the club. Garlands of flowers were looped around its doorways and the gate. Nobody at the reception was checking the guests to see who had come to see whom. Adhirath said to the man at the desk, “Udairaj,” but before he could utter the word, the man extended a hand saying, “have you got the card Sir?”

“Card?”

“No problems. Will ask. A lot of people forget to bring cards. Some leave it in their cars.” He picked up the intercom and turned to Adhirath.”Who should I say has come sir?”

That is when a couple sauntered in extracting a card from an envelope. The receptionist bent low and waved them onwards, saying “first floor, sir.” The woman had a box gift wrapped in a shiny paper.

“Sarojji will be here. I want to talk to her,” said Adhirath.

“Yes,” said the man, and then to the mouthpiece he said, “Saroj madam is there? What name should I tell her?” he asked Adhirath.

After five minutes he was on the first floor. Saroj met him at the door. Her kurta looked like waves of black sweeping over white, or was it the other way round? The churidar was black though, pitch black. Neither silk, nor cotton, something mixed, not glossy but hoe it glowed! She wore no dupatta. Flowers of the same dull white metal stuck to her ears and from each hung a single large pearl.

“I feel so happy to see you, that to on my son’s birthday,” she said with a smile. She sounded sincere.

“Sorry, I got no present. I did not know.”

Saroj laughed. “Come let me take you to meet my husband, my patidev,” she said with a faint trace of irony. Did she now? Or had he heard Pushpa using the word in his head with open sarcasm?

Udairaj was holding a bloody mary, but Adhirath’s eyes were glued to his dark blue kurta. Three buttons winked at him from its buttonholes, diamonds on gold discs.

“You will have to have a drink today,” said Udairaj shaking hands with him.

“Your buttons are matchless,” said Adhirath.

“One button costs five lacs,” said Udairaj.

“Each button! These diamonds are so expensive?” asked Adhirath his eyebrows raised.

“Only one, the top one. The others are a little cheaper,” said Udairaj.

Adhirath turned to leave. Saroj followed him to the door.

“What happened to your job?” she asked.

“How do you know?” he asked. He was not surprised.

“You can get a lot of information in five lac rupees. I did not call you that day. It was no use. He had three buttons. You may have guessed,” said Saroj. “So what happened to the enquiry?”

“Madam, I may be about to lose my job,” said Adhirath.

Saroj came out of the door and said, “Money has a lot of power. When the Jhandapuris got the support of money they agreed to turn witnesses from blackmailers. If you had talked to me frankly, taken me into confidence…I did not know about the enquiry.”

Adhirath thought she was sad. She took out a small purse form the pocket of her kurta , a small pouch of white satin. Extracting a card from it she handed it to him. “I have started a business of interior decorations. Meet me some time. You are welcome at the farm too. Now it won’t be sold.”

“May I ask you something?” asked Adhirath.

She bent her neck making it look like a question mark. Her brows shot up.

“Do you not feel scared? You are living with a man like him?”

Saroj laughed. “I live with my son. When I see his face all the trepidations I have flee from me. Love teaches you to fight. To survive.”

Adhirath went down the stairs and looked up when he got to the bottom of the stairs. Saroj was still standing there looking at him. She was not smiling.

When he reached home a brown official envelope was on the table in the sitting room. It was open. He knew what the news was. Even so he slipped out the single sheet of paper in it and read it. he had been sacked. Dismissed from his job. He was to face trial. He inserted the paper back in the envelope.

“Arri bhaagwaan, you could have got some dahi,” he heard Daulatram’s voice. Perhaps he had just got out of the bathroom inside.

“Get it now,” said Shakuntala.

“Now listen to her. The market may have closed by now.”

He looked up. Pushpa was standing in the doorway between the two rooms.

“The market is open,” Pushpa said.

email: anjalides@gmail.com

THE END

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