Sunday, October 6, 2013

Jar of Sunshine Part 4

    Read Part 3
Pre Script- There was some problem because of which part 3 wasn't getting displayed on dashboard.. If you haven't read it, this part wouldn't make sense :P

          She was all of 15 when she was standing at the bus stop, unusually aware of her fragility and grown up much more than the 14 yr old that she once was. It was getting dark and she was scarred of the people who were now crowding the bus stop. She was intimidated by a figure who was hurriedly approaching her but relaxed when she saw it was Sunaina's father. He handed her a few notes secretly and whispered, "Take care". He took to his heels before she could even thank him.
              She had never approached a shop alone, forget about a booking office. Her stomach was grumbling with hunger and she felt it knot in anxiety. She went to the counter and asked about the bus leaving to her village. The bored man at the counter yawned and looked at the chart and told her the bus would leave early morning at 6.  An unknown fear gripped her. Where would she spend the night?

             It was dark and it had started drizzling. She thought of going to the Ganesh temple. That was the best resort. The eateries had all shut down and she didn't know if she could afford the ticket if she ate. So she walked straight to the temple. She sat on the stairs. Tears welled up her eyes as the events of the past 24 hours filled her mind. She already missed Anuya and the boy who was too young and spent more than half of his life in her arms. The little girl was a stranger to her.
             " This is no place for a young girl to sit" a woman said.

             Sumitra looked at the woman. It was the jolly woman who lived a few houses away from Anuya nivas. She was a single woman and Ishwar Narayan often mentioned her as "jolly" to his friends. He would say she had a loose character. She would entertain men and keep young woman at her home. He would say  she drank and smoke with the men. The woman was frowned upon by the neighbors. Sumitra shifted uneasily when the woman placed a hand on her shoulder. The woman looked hurt.

            "I know. I know what you must be thinking. That ungrateful couple must have filled your ears too with stories. You ought to know better girl. This world is no safe place for single women. Not with snakes like Ishwar Narayan and his wife."
            She wondered what the woman meant.

           "I m not Jolly, my name is Meera. My husband was a friend to Ishwar Narayan. Ishwar Narayan and my husband grew up together. When we were married, a lot of objections were raised for our love. Ishwar Narayan too was never supportive. Yet when he needed money to buy that house, my husband gave him a generous loan. My dear husband died in an unfortunate accident and Ishwar Narayan didn't even show his face. He never returned the loan and I had to forsake my wedding jewellery to pay for the cremation of my husband. How my husband might have been pained to see me pawn the jewellery that he so lovingly made for me. Ishwar Narayan and that wretched wife of his will burn in hell" She cried out.

         Sumitra pitied the woman. How wrong she had been. After all, how can anyone trust what Ishwar Narayan said. Didn't he malign Sumitra the same way.

       " Don't be scared. I don't sell girls. They stay over at my place when they have to make a transit. I charge for sleeping in at my house. It is too big for a lonely woman. That's how I make a living. I rent out the space to travellers or holidaying couples. I won't charge you. Come to my house and rest for the night. There is nobody for a few days. God knows if the demons have even fed you. Let me serve you. That much I owe your mother. "

       "You knew my mother?" she asked in surprise.
      "Why, we went to the same school! You remind me so much of her." she lovingly said.
      " I m not like her." Sumitra had said.
      " I know you must be hating her. Understand one thing. She was a gentle woman. Much like how you are. Gentle and loving. A woman has her moments of loneliness. Her husband stayed away from her for years making a living in the city. She was charmed by a man and went down the wrong path. I admit she did a grave injustice to you by ending her life. She wasn't as strong as you are. But she was good to me always. She never let me go empty stomached when I went to her house and I wouldn't send her daughter away to the dangers of the night."

        She had grabbed Sumitra's hand. She had made hot water for her to bathe and change and then served her hot food. When she was rested well, Meera had fed her breakfast and asked her if she really wanted to go to the village or stay back. She had offered to help Sumitra with her stay. Sumitra had wanted to go back and Meera respected her wish.

       She dropped Sumitra to the bus stand and bought her the tickets. When Sumitra had volunteered to pay she had shoved it aside and told her to use the money in a constructive way. Before she boarded the bus, Meera had hugged Sumitra and said,
       "Remember one thing, there are people who are after your beauty. If you are not careful, they will charm you and rub you the wrong way. Give your heart and soul to one who would preserve you. Marry the man who would stay by your side despite your background. Till then, just do your work. One day the jar of sunshine would open for you."

     Sumitra had thanked her for the hospitality and followed her advise.

    " Do you have Meera aunty's number?" Sumitra asked Ram.
    " Yes, but why do you want that?" 
     Meera had died last year and left behind the house to an orphanage. Sumitra had stayed in contact with Meera and even visited her once. It was during that visit that Sumitra had seen Anuya. 
      Anuya had not recognized her. Sumitra could only place her only because someone had pointed at Anuya. She had a wheatish complexion and had grown taller than Sumitra's 5'6. Her hair looked like a nest. The ringlets were gone and her hair looked unwashed. She herself was healthy and wore a white salwar kameez. Sumitra felt awkward to start a conversation with her. Rukmini and Ishwar Narayan were not close by.
     The older neighbors told Anuya who Sumitra was. She seemed happy to meet Sumitra although Sumitra could tell she scarcely had any memory of her.
     "So Sumi did you find your jar of sunshine?" she asked in a hoarse voice.
      Sumitra was shocked when she asked that. First for the question and second for the deep voice she had. Sumitra could never forget that. They had exchanged numbers that day.

     " Maybe some older neighbor still staying there would have his number and inform him" she said.
     "Wait I wil try." Her husband parked the car on the side of the road and dialled a number. 
     "No one picking up" He told her. 
     "Do you think they know yet?" she asked worried.
     "Don't worry Sumi, maybe they know already. We will reach before 9." He held her hand and comforted her. 
      Like he had done 30 years back..