Monday, September 03, 2007

Janki and Mansoor (Chapter 2)

Chapter 2


When I think of myself, of Janki twenty years back, I see myself as this other person. What a year was it! Two murders that changed my life forever. When I told you the story, I kept myself detached from it. Even as I told you the gist of what happened, the scenes, the events played before my eyes. I saw myself in Janki, and yet all those scenes appeared fictional. Unlike what writers proclaim in novels, the past does not show itself in crisp digital technicolor quality. Memory puts a lot of dust and smoke on our past. If you send me back in time, I will neither recognize myself, nor Mr Agrawal and least of all Mansoor bhaisahib.

I was thirty five back then, my sons were thirteen and sixteen years old. Rajesh was quite fat back then, and his younger brother, Rakesh, was exceptionally thin. Now both my sons are married, have the typical Agrawal pouch and have their own sons in the image of Mr. Agrawal. Are they really like their grandfather? Can a fifty-five year old widow see clearly? If a widow had no photograph of her deceased husband for twenty years, would she remember his face? The smell shows up at awkward places; even in places like toilets, which is no place to remember them who you revere so. Yet toilets seem to be the only places where you can sit, relax and think these days. Ever since the Industrial Revolution (a manufacturing sector boom) started in 2009, India has turned into a high speed, fast paced nation. It is hard to even think of India of 1992, when cable TV was just coming in, software sector did not exist, economic liberization was considered a bane, Ram mandir issue was daily news, and I was a dumb housewife who knew nothing about business, politics and marketing.

A death alters everything. A husband's death is typically a wife's death too. No wonder they used to burn the wife alive as Sati during the nineteenth century. I could not let his dream die, and so I had to live. Yet it is one thing to dream, yet another to have your wife realize it. To tell you what happened in last twenty years, requires me to talk about things in a greater detail. Don't blame me for inconsistencies in my story; if I were good in memorizing stuff, I would have scored a distinction in my twelfth exams. I married a month after I turned eighteen. So I never got the college education, factually which holds the same value these days that fifth grade graduation had in my time. Most people think I am a graduate; Mr Agrawal had bought a BA (Bachelor of Arts) Hindi Honors degree for me from Dehradoon. Mr. Agrawal was very enterprising in that way.

When Mansoor bhaisahib was in jail on corruption charges, I was the one who bailed him out. When my first son was born, we were tenants in his house. Our financial situation was awful back then. Rakesh was ten months old when my breasts refused to comply with his hunger. We had barely enough to eat. Mansoor Bhaisahib had waived off rent for two months (secretly of course) to let me have extra money for buying milk for my son. When Rajesh broke his leg few years later, it was Mansoor Bhaisahib who took him to the hospital, and paid for the cost of X-ray, plastering and medicines. It was his love for my sons, and the love of his wife for them, that I never forgot. The God was so moved by their affection for my sons, that he gave them gift of child after ten years of barren marriage. Mansoor Bhaisahib was always helpful to us, and always said that Rakesh and Rajesh brought him good luck. As if! He was like a Mama to them and always had good advice and gifts for them. Mr. Agrawal could afford to forget, a mother is different.

Things are not easy to explain when there is so much to explain. Mr. Agrawal was one of the millions who had to leave Pakistan during partition. He was only a year old when his family left Pakistan, and you cannot really expect a baby to know of a homeland, let alone have an attachment to it. But he inherited a hate for Muslims, for his father lost two of four sisters and Mr. Agrawal lost his mother to the lust of Muslim pigs. The fact that another Muslim family had hidden other sisters, fed Mr. Agrawal as a baby was somehow washed out of the memory that bore scars of hate since then. Yet whenever he spoke to Mansoor, Mr. Agrawal maintained a demeanor that never reflected what he really felt. Things were simple till we had lived in Mansoor's house on rent. Things were fine before the Housing Board building collapsed. Things were alright till Suryakanth Tripathi came into the picture.

To be continued...

Previous chapters found here

1 comment:

Vivek Sharma विवेक शर्मा said...


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Vivek Sharma comments: on 4 Sep 07 15:00:00 PM
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I guess a good story connects itself. What you read this week will show up in your memory the next week. I read the biggest novels piecemeal, and when I move from a chapter to next, sometimes after a hiatus of few days, I find story reiterating itself in my head.

Dostovesky, Henry James and Tolstoy for example served some of their most famous novels in episode form. It is a challenge to do a decent job at it. I guess the whole enterprise, the effort that is being directed here towards Janki and Mansoor to make it into a complete novel. How well can I do it, how to tie each episode and all branches and tribruteries into one storyline in actually a compelling challenge.

Keep reading. Keep coming back for more. Spare no criticism. Let me know what fails, and flails as story progresses. For all your reading effort, I promise you entertainment and dedicated effort from my side.

suchetana comments: on 4 Sep 07 13:45:00 PM
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hmmmm.....interesting n complex....good going vivek.... but at times, one might just get lost in the complex plot... difficult to pick up the cue in case of "serials"...then again, i m sure one will not mind turning back to the previous chapters , they are so excellently written....

'character sketches' (sounds typically english lierature studentish) are perfect....i can almost visualise janki, tripathi, agarwal n the subedar...