Saturday, October 5, 2013

Jar of Sunshine Part-3

    Read Part 1      and Part 2

             In a few months time, Rukmini was again huge with a baby. She lay on her bed all the time and shouted out orders to Sumitra. Anuya and her brother depended entirely on Sumitra to look after them. Ishwar Chandra started coming home earlier than usual to shop for the vegetables and help Anuya with her homework. Anuya was his favorite and he pampered her a lot. Rukmini would sometimes yell at Anuya and the girl would refuse to eat until Ishwar Narayan came home and fed her himself. She was the only one who could get away with even kicking Ishwar Narayan. He indulged her so much that even Rukmini would be irritated.
              Troubles started when Anuya began taking sides with Sumitra. She would see how over worked Sumitra would be with all the household work and rebuke Rukmini for doing nothing. She would insist that Rukmini ready her for school and tie her pony so that Sumitra could finish with her cooking. She also started demanding that Ishwar Narayan prepare the evening snacks. He could do little to convince her otherwise. He gave in to her demands and following that one could see Ishwar Narayan grating coconut or cutting onions after returning from work early. In her own little ways, Anuya was the only companion Sumitra had. She would amuse her with the stories she learnt at school, bring her the toffees that kids distributed on birthdays, teach her a few words in English and sing filmy songs for her. In return, Sumitra would fascinate her with stories her grandmother used to tell her. Her attachment with Anuya pricked Rukmini but she stayed mum. After all she needed the girl.

           In her eighth month, Rukmini's sister joined her at Anuya nivas. She had come to help her with the  delivery. She was a pompous fat lady who never failed to belittle Sumitra everytime she opened her mouth. Layers of fat hung from her waist and her belly protruded more than Rukmini. She would put kumkum on her forehead using a coin. Although she came as a help with cooking special nutrition that had to be given in pregnancy, she would otherwise just be a burden. She would sit on the cot oiling and braiding her curly long hair or rubbing tobacco on her palms and comment on Sumitra. Sumitra hated her.

         It was the month of June and it was raining heavily. Sumitra was sleeping after a hard day. She heard cries and woke up with a start. She could feel the unrest in the house. Rukmini was experiencing labor pain. Rukmini's sister had gone to a relative's house and slept there after dinner. Ishwar Narayan was sleeping with the kids. Sumitra was scared to see Rukmini wail like that. She fetched water and went to wake up Ishwar Narayan. He shouted at her to call the neighboring women. Without waiting to search for an umbrella, she had gone from door to door fetching women from neighboring houses.  She had come home drenched and pacified the crying children. Hours later she heard a baby crying. It was a baby girl.
        Next morning, Rukmini's sister came home, smiling sheepishly.

       One would expect that after spending a year in the house and doing so much work, Sumitra would finally be accepted. It was far from the truth. Rukmini always cradled the baby in her arms. With the new baby who was fair and pink, Rukmini had suddenly become very proud. She started discriminating against  Anuya who was getting dusky as she was growing up. It angered Ishwar Narayan but he knew better than to infuriate Rukmini. Although she continued being lazy, she now overlooked all the work that Sumitra was doing and found it unsatisfactory. She also noticed the young lads who would make rounds for a glimpse of Sumitra.

     One evening Rukmini sent Sumitra to the market to buy some vegetables. She took Sunaina for company.
On their way back, they were about to enter their colony when a youth came running and quickly handed a letter to Sumitra. She stood petrified. Not knowing what to do, she threw the letter on the ground and walked away. She did not see Ishwar Narayan walking behind her. He picked up the letter.

     She was pouring the tea when a loud commotion ensued. She rushed to the hall and saw Sunaina and her mother along with Ishwar Narayan and Rukmini. Without giving any further thought to what he said, Sunaina's mother, who was Ishwar Narayan's sister-in-law, began slapping Sunaina.

    "Will you go again with that girl?" she asked.
    "Mother, we did nothing!" Sunaina protested.
    " Shut up, I don't want another word." She took Sunaina to her home.

    "Like mother like daughter" Rukmini mouthed. It cut Sumitra to the core.

     Next evening Ishwar Narayan brought home the neighbors. His brother (Sunaina's father), their other neighbors and a few of the relatives were present. Ishwar Narayan showed them the letter.
     "We gave her shelter, good food and clothes and she is whoring around here. Look at this letter. She is shameless to write love letter and throw at guys. What would become of our reputation were she to beget a child like her mother got her!"

     She pleaded to Sunaina's father, who was the eldest brother, "Uncle, I did not throw the letter at anyone. A boy handed it to me and I threw it back. Trust me uncle. Please." She cried.
    Rukmini spewed venom by saying, " We all know the blood that courses your vein. You expect us to believe you!!" She slapped Sumitra.

    The next moments were a blur. The neighbors stood mute as Ishwar Narayan soiled her reputation by falsely accusing her of affairs that she never had. In the next few minutes she saw herself all packed and thrown out of the house, with not even enough money to go back to her village. Anuya sobbed uncontrollably and hugged her. While she was getting pulled by Rukmini, Anuya had shouted
        "Remember the jar of sunshine? You said that fairy gifts all of us. Yours will also open and you will be happy. Don't forget me Sumi didi"

       "I shall never forget you" she had said to herself.

       With her bag of clothes and the address of her grandparents, she stood at the bus stand. Not knowing how she would go.

(To be continued)

No comments: