Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Author’s Note: I have a seven years old grand daughter. Recently she had an argument with her mother over her pocket money. I was privy to their conversation and hence this story.

Sylvia was waiting for her father since afternoon. Her father had promised Sylvia and her mother a week end vacation. Sylvia’s holidays had started about a week ago but her father had still not finalized any holiday plan. Sylvia was getting impatient with nothing much to do at home. Many of her friends had already gone on vacation and Sylvia knew all of them would boast of fabulous time when they returned.

It was Friday afternoon and the holiday plan was still not in place. Her father talked of several hill stations mostly where official guest house existed and in fact where official transport could preferably be provided by some sister unit. Sylvia appreciated that that was necessary to cut down the costs but what worried her was that most of the time her father’s leave plans amounted to knots. In fact, the experience was that nothing was certain until they had boarded the train. It was for this reason that she would keep them secret from her friends. It had often happened in the past that her father had come up with some excuse or the other to defer the holidays at the last moment, generally attributing the postponement or cancellation in final terms to pressing demands of his office.
The long wait that Friday ended in what Sylvia and even her mother had apprehended. Her father had sent a message through his secretary late in the afternoon that he had to go to Kolkata next morning to resolve a sudden labour problem of serious nature in Khyderpur docks.

Sylvia was Nineteen, a first year student in the Arts faculty of St. Mary’s College, Delhi. She was proud that her father was a senior officer in the government. In fact, she never missed any opportunity of talking about her father’s arduous and important job of national importance. She had become adept in making policy statements on behalf of the government nonchalantly with load of confidence. Her rich friends didn’t like it and they would soon change the topic to safaris, picnics or dinner parties and discothèques. That was where Sylvia felt left out. She would back track with a wry smile but it hurt her inside.

“Mom, you better stop my pocket money, it is an insult. With it you can’t even buy a cup of coffee,” she told her mother one day.
“Your father has a fixed salary; we have a budget to live within.”
“Mom! Do you ever realize that the money I get is a pittance when compared to what my friends get?”
“Syl! You must also realize that the prices all over are shooting up rapidly on day to day basis whereas the increase in salary is once in six months and mind you that is not related to the soaring market prices.”

Sylvia hated to hear the same explanation every time she asked for extra pocket money. She needed money, at least once in a while to treat her friends. But she never picked up the courage to broach the issue with her father.

She often talked of it to her cousin Barry, a final year student in the same college appreciated her problem for his father was also in the government and in a much lower position than Sylvia’s father.

“Sylvia, I know a guy who is a tour manager. He is taking a rafting group to Rishikesh this Sunday. He needs some one with life guard certificate. Since you have one, why don’t you take up the job?”
“It is one week affair, Sunday to Saturday,” he added after a little pause.
“You Dumbhead! What do I say to my folks?” Sylvia snapped.
Barry had anticipated the question and hence ready with the answer instantly.
“Say, you are going out on a college excursion sponsored by some NGO. I will join you in convincing your parents.”
Sylvia thought over and felt the idea could be sold to her parents.
“What is he paying?” And then she added, “How much do I get out of it………. I mean what is your cut?”
Barry ignored her query. He always thought Sylvia was a skeptical type, particularly when it came to money. The ground reality was that they knew each other too well. Both of them were convinced that the other was mean.
“I have a feeling and it comes to me too often that you could beat the greediest bitch hands down,” Barry responded nonchalantly.
“Well, my dear cousin, thanks for the compliment but
that doesn’t take us away from the truth of the matter. I don’t mind being called a bitch if that is necessary to protect my interest.”
“Look, you get three hundred rupees a day and all
meals. That’s all and what I get is none of your business.”
Sylvia stared at Barry and then said with a placating smile, “How about five hundred a day.”
Barry seemed to have been bitten by sudden ulcerous pain.
“Syl! You are a limit……. You ……. You, he stammered.”
“Five hundred bucks and no less. Take it or leave it.”
Barry was still clinching his fists. “You are mean…… in fact, meanest of the means I have ever known.”
“Yes my dear cousin, I am mean but so are most of us including your benign self. I know you still must be making enough for yourself.”
The arguments however concluded with Sylvia holding to her price tag and Barry giving in reluctantly.

“By the way, what are you going to do with so much of money?” A naïve question but Barry couldn’t hold himself asking.
Sylvia was quiet for a moment and then suddenly she turned somber.
“Barry! You may laugh at me or disbelieve altogether. I have been feeling slighted when ever my friends take me out for a treat and brag about it thereafter and the worse is, I can not reciprocate.”
Barry was in maize. Sylvia continued, “You know the monthly pocket money I get is not good enough to enter a coffee house. For once I want to give a decent treat to all my friends.
Barry didn’t buy the story. Sylvia was not the person he knew who would spend her hard earned money on her friends. It was hurting him inside that due to circumstantial compulsion, he had agreed to a high fee for Sylvia. It was a legal requirement to have a life saving guard with a rafting group and he was aware that those guys always acted pricey.

All went well. The group was very happy with the expedition and with Sylvia in particular. They complimented her and loaded her with small goodies. The tour operator too was quite pleased with Sylvia.

Sylvia was very pleased with a fat fee packet under her belt. On the following Thursday she invited half a dozen of her friends at an expensive joint in a popular Mall for a treat. Since the money had come through Barry, she thought it proper to invite him also.

Sylvia went home, had a quick wash and changed in to her favourite purple gown. She took an auto-rickshaw to reach the party joint. She was in an effusive mood humming her favourite tunes. She paid the auto driver, alighted from the auto and entered the Mall. Suddenly she had an urge to buy her favourite perfume and apply it before joining her friends.

It was a grand treat, more than her friends could have expected. They were enjoying and Sylvia for the first time felt herself an integral part of the group. She was in high spirits and then she wanted to distribute the goodies amongst her friends. She looked in to her bag and suddenly she realized her purse, which she had put in it was missing. She searched the bag several times with no luck. Sylvia was now frantic. The party was in full swing. Her friends were in expansive mood and so was Barry who knew the extent of Sylvia’s fee.

Sylvia got up and asked Barry to come out with her and then she told him that her money bag had been pinched in the Mall.
“What are you talking? How can it be? And now how will you foot the bill?”
“Barry! Please go to the manager. Try to explain the situation to him.” Then handing Barry her gold chain she said, “Pawn this with him until I find money to pay the bill.”

Barry was apprehensive. He had an inhibition that it could be a prank from Sylvia. I will be doomed if I were to pay the bill. Besides, he felt it would be impossible to recover the money from his cousin.
“Let me see what can be done,” he grumbled taking the gold chain from Sylvia.

Sylvia joined the group back trying her best to look normal. Barry was in the back room with the manager. Her friends were busy enjoying but they didn’t miss to see Sylvia’s distraught face. Besides, the party time was getting lengthened beyond normal expectation.
“Any problem Syl?” One of them asked.
“No, no. Please carry on,” Sylvia managed to say feebly looking towards the manager’s cabin and praying that Barry succeeded in persuading the manager and that the manager didn’t create any fuss.
It was seemingly a long time since Barry was closeted with the manager. Sylvia prayed and prayed for the success of the mission.

Sylvia turned stone when she saw her mother entering the restaurant. The old lady came over and hugged her with a smile.
“Child! Take it easy. Barry has told me everything. Don’t you worry darling. I appreciate; you do need extra pocket money once in a while. Now tell your friends to continue and enjoy the party,” she whispered.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


I had seen her first time in a party. It was the marriage anniversary of Ajay and Sudha, my doctor friends. I was in high spirits; virtually and emotionally because Ajay has been my oldest pal. We had gone through the thick and thin of life together.

She had the touch of arrogance. Beautiful, yes she was and she was charming. Tall and shapely, in fact she was alluring and captivating. Dressed to the occasion, she carried the freshness of the flowers, and a mesmerising smile on her lips. Looking at her, I was swooning and the first thing I did was to talk of it with Ajay.
"Ajay, who is that dame in the light blues next to the flower vase, up there", I asked him pointing towards the right corner of the hall.
"Ah Ha! You too have been bowled over."
"Not exactly but then she is attractive. Isn't she?"
"Well Sir, she is Dr. Amita Shukla, the new doctor posted in my department. Has in fact joined recently."
"What is her husband?” I asked, trying to look un-inquisitive.
Ajay waited for a few seconds and then said, “She is a
“A divorcee! My God! Such an enticing colleague by your
side and a divorcee. Lucky, you!”
"Don't be stupid," Ajay said giving a wry smile and then added with a broad grin, "Incidentally, she is an anaesthetist." I could not miss the stress on the last word.
"She is worth any thing yar. You don't live many lives. As it is, she need not give anaesthesia to the patients; a look at her is enough," I said smiling. And to press home my brimming exciting, I added, "Who would like to be anaesthetized? I wouldn't mind even if I was lacerated if only she remained in front of me.”
"You are incorrigible,” Ajay said and walked away to
attend other guests.

Now I had several ideas coming to my head to get myself introduced to the bewitching lady. She must have noticed me often talking to Ajay, I thought. And that could be the best plank to launch myself, I thought.
I called a waiter to follow me and started offering drinks to the guests. I noticed that she was watching me from the corner of her eyes. "Be brave", a voice spoke within me and propelled me towards her.
"Good evening,” I said and then with a slight bow I added, “Care for a drink?"
"No thanks. I just had one" was her brief reply and before I could think of any other appropriate address, she walked away. I was dumbfounded and hurt. Seldom had I experienced such indignation. I abandoned the host’s role mid way and walked to the other corner of the hall. I was musing and licking my wounds when Ajay appeared again from nowhere.
"Sad indeed! No?" He said with a wide grin.
“Shut up you bastard! Bloody sadist! And I don't need your sympathies,” I said looking at the ceiling.
“What does she think of herself? An out right arrogant and pretentious female,” I fumed.
"I don’t know that but I am happy you have met a match.”
I had to do some face saving. I gave a rather loud coquettish laugh and said, “Let's drink to those spicy, spiral curves.” And then I lifted my glass in Ajay’s direction and added, “And to the fiendish friends."
"May you go to the hell and by the quickest possible route,"
Ajay said and walked away.

I had forgotten the episode as one of the pranks of my wavering, lustful mind. It often happened with me that I fell in love with every beautiful woman I met. My imagination would run wild, weaving stories, chasing fantasies. For days together, I would be lost in my quixotic romanticised world till it petered off over the passage of time or in better circumstances, another exciting subject, real or imaginary entered the scene.
I once told Ajay, “Perhaps I am suffering from schizophrenia. I debate both ways on the superiority of virtues over vices but at the same time I believe that vice has the variety and that is all what matters to a human being.”
I was aware that I was perhaps carrying a label but it never bothered me, I wanted to live life my way.

I was a free lance journalist and I fancied writing stories and poems. A busy bachelor, travelling places and meeting people from different cross sections of society. Ajay knew me from my school days, we were neighbours. I was the only son of my parents. When eleven, I had lost my mother and it was only a year later that my father married again. That changed everything. Ajay had shared all my agonising moments. After schooling, Ajay took to medicine and I adopted a wanderer’s life.

“I wish I could convince you but I always feel there is some thing wanting in your life, you are running after the unrealistic, the non-existing, dwelling in a world of fantasy,” Ajay often told me.
“Ajay! Desire is a force that keeps you going. You ought not measure the longevity of pleasure; a few ecstatic moments in life may out weigh the entire life of comfort.”
“I don’t believe in frittering away life since I consider it precious. I want to feel the ground below me and unlike you, I don’t trust flimsy suppositions,” Ajay opined.
I could not emphatically deny his observations for I believed in him even if not in his words. This had happened often. We would sit together, argue and end up with status-quo.

It was after a few months of Ajay’s marriage anniversary that I got in to a problem. I had a new junior, a young girl, Lalita whom I had taken out for dinner. I was in my full mettle after few large whiskeys. We had out after dinner and walking towards the parking. I was holding Lalita’s hand for two reasons. First, that I was not in a position to walk straight and second, and more importantly for me, holding the hand of the young exciting colleague was giving me abounding sensuous pleasure.
As we were crossing the road, Lalita was knocked down by a speeding car and I too was thrown over. I managed to get up, summed up my wits and then rushed her to the hospital. I rang up Ajay. He was not at home. His wife replied that he should be back any time. I told her of the accident and requested her to tell Ajay to reach the hospital as soon as possible.
We were rushing Lalita to wards the OT when I saw Dr. Amita, the lady doctor I had confronted in Ajay’s wedding anniversary. I could hardly speak when she said, "Please do not worry. We will take care of your friend," and went in to the OT. I was not sure whether she had recognised me.

Lalita, the only child of her parents was lying on the operation table and I was worried of the impact of the story on my career. That it was past two in the night and that I was quite sozelled at the time of the accident would have made an exciting story.
Besides, I didn’t know how to break the news to Lalita’s parents. Never had I felt so remorseful in my life. Tears of anguish were burning me from top to toe.
It was after an hour that a nurse came out from the OT and told me that Lalita’s condition was stable and that the operation was successful.
I was tired and waiting for Ajay to come out of the OT. Depressed, I slumped on a sofa when Dr. Amita came over to me. I was not in a position to start any conversation. I wanted to thank her but words were failing me.
"Don't worry. Your friend is Ok now", she said.
"Thank you doctor" I managed to say.
“Let’s go to Dr. Ajay’s room. He will be joining us soon." Then smiling she added, “Why don't you have a cup of tea. You need one."
A cruel joke, I thought. To be in her company, I would have given up my one arm but here I was not in a good enough frame of mind to have a fulsome look at her.

I thanked Dr. Amita once again when she told me that she had informed the parents of Lalita. It was a big load off my chest. Ajay had joined us by this time and a few seconds later, I found my faculties soaring again as I saw the curvaceous hind side of Dr. Amita bending over the table to pick up a cup.
I feigned looking towards the ceiling when she surprised me, "Tell me is hunting females your favourite hobby?"
I was not prepared for such frontal attack. I thought the situation was still serious. Nor could I say that she was wrong. “Had she read my mind,” I was vexed.
"I don't believe in chasing anyone,” I said wanting to rest the topic.
"Now that Lalita is out of danger, I suppose you consider yourself absolved of all responsibilities. The file is closed, no?"
I was nearly stunned. She was not only outspoken but ruthlessly correct.
"Look! Don’t you realise, story of this accident can cause her immense harm at the onset of her career.
“Dr. Amita! This is a baseless insinuation, an irresponsible comment,” I was by then quite irritated.
“Isn’t it a fact? I feel sad for you. You are like a grasshopper keeping yourself away from the ground,” she said looking straight in to my eyes.
I looked away from her gaze. This female can never be my friend I thought. “Thanks for your observation and for the help and the rest perhaps we may talk it over sometime later.”
"Is that an invitation?" She asked grinning. I didn’t respond but her laugh had a contagious effect on me. I smiled.
“Be warned that I am an anaesthetist,” now she said with a bigger smile.
"You will need to give me an extra strong dose, I don’t faint easily.”

During that period I often met Dr. Amita to find out Lalita’s progress. I had intentionally not renewed the offer of invitation. Her words even in lighter vein had made me feel uneasy. I realized for the first time a pit in my stomach.

Lalita was discharged from the hospital. Her one leg was under plaster but she could walk with a support. A couple of days later Lalita was discharged from the hospital. week later she was I went with her parents to thank the doctors and staff attending her. Then I told them to wait in my car and went again to Dr. Amita’s chamber.
“Thanks a lot, doctor.”
"It is all right. I am happy to see Lalita’s progress. Take care of her and .......” she said giving me a searching look.
"Thank you," I said and as I turned, she asked, "Is the invitation still open?"
Was it a capricious suggestion, I couldn't make out. "Any time", I said and came out thanking her again.

I related the incidence to Ajay a few days later. His reaction was not as I had expected. I had expected him to pull my leg, pass some caustic remark or laugh it out as pure fantasy of my mind. Instead he was very sombre.
"What's the matter?" I was surprised.
He was quiet for some moments and then said, "Life is not what it looks to be. You have been flirting with life; your own and others but there are more pressing demands on life than mere flirtation."
I was about to react to his words but Ajay held me with a gesture of his hand and continued.
"Amita is so caring, putting other person at ease, never letting others know her troubles. Lost her mother about ten years ago and three years ago, her father and brother met with a serious accident. Both are handicapped. She looks after them with no time to think about herself.
She and her doctor husband were offered an UN assignment but she declined the offer to utter dislike of her husband who was very keen to take up the new job.
“You don’t appreciate the professional advantage of this assignment apart from the monetary benefits. We can engage a nurse to look after your father and brother,” her husband had suggested.
Dr. Amita was but firm. “I can not leave them in this condition. A nurse can not give them the psychological and emotional support they need. They need me here more than anything.”

“Both of them stood to their grounds resulting in their separation,” Ajay concluded.
I was quite shaken. I felt sorry for Dr. Amita and I decided to make amends.

I went to her house one evening. It was a quite unexpected visit. That has been the bane of my life. Unpredictable, that is what I have always been. I didn't care how she or her people would react to an unannounced visit.
"Hello Doctor!" I said as she opened the door.
"Anything is the problem?" she asked me with apprehension.
"Nothing. I just thought to call on you and talk to you."
She gave me a vexed look.
"Look! I owe you an apology."
"For what?"
"For my unfriendly, irresponsible behaviour."
"Don't be silly", she said in an unguarded moment and then realising the slip she hurriedly added, "Oh! I am sorry....I mean......"
Intercepting her I said, "Yes that is the way I like people to talk, frank and free."
She wanted to say something but withheld herself.

I went in and saw her father and brother, both were sitting in wheel chairs around the dining table. They were having tea and invited me to join them. I learnt that Amita’s father was a professor of History in the state university before he met with the accident and her brother; an engineering student was in his teens.
They were in a jestful mood, pulling each other's leg, irony of fate that both having none. Doctor Amita made tea for me. Words would not come out my mouth as I took the cup and I could not I look them in their eyes.
The father and son were discussing World Cup soccer that was the ongoing event those days and I was amazed to see their enthusiasm. Doctor Amita told me that both of them would sleep during the day time to watch the games during the night hours.

I was jolted to the core. To be honest, I was afire. How different was Doctor Amita than I? Wasn’t she right in saying that I was a grasshopper jumping all over, never touching the ground, never having the feel of reality? I felt belittled but lighter in soul. When I came out of the room, I had tears in my eyes.

"Thanks a lot Doctor,” I managed to say and ran towards my car.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Author’s Note: Hansuli is a silver bracelet like ornament worn around neck by women in the hills of Garhwal and Kumaon. The name Hansuli symbolizes prosperity and happiness.

She had been convicted of homicide and awarded fourteen years rigorous imprisonment. The judge in his judgment said that he was taking a lenient view because of her two minor children.
Yes, she was the mother of two sons. Looking outside from the tiny holes in that police van, taking her to the central jail, she could see the trees, all running backwards. So were her thoughts; running back to painful memories, anguish over her broken dreams and the frightening thoughts of the future awaiting her sons.
The police van was winding along the curves of the hill road and her mind was sinking deep in the memory lane. What was that she could remember of her childhood?

Her name was Hansuli, the only daughter of the village grocer, Sukhram Sah. She was always pampered by her father and cursed by her mother for being careless and clumsy. She was very beautiful and her father was dotted on her.
"I will marry her to a prince and my daughter will dwell in riches." That was the dream of this shop keeper of a tiny hill village. There were no schools and in any case those days need was not felt to send girls to schools. A marriage in a good family was the ultimate wish of every girl’s father in this part of the world.
If the dreams of Sukhram Sah were to come true, Hansuli would have been married to some sepoy of the Garhwal Rifles or Kumaon Regiment or she would have been given in marriage to some one with a house and little land. Neither of them unfortunately came to happen for Sukhram Sah, one day after excessive drinking in a marriage feast died without leaving any assurance of his dreams.
Hansuli was then fifteen. Now the biggest ailment of her ailing mother was the young daughter who by all social norms was crossing the marriageable age.
"If alone I could get Hansuli married, I too could die a peaceful death", she would bemoan before every sympathizer, requesting every one of them to find a groom, any groom for that matter.

At last a groom was found for Hansuli. Ganpat Sah, the goldsmith in the next village had lost his wife. By local standards, Ganpat Sah was quite well off. He had a smithy shop, a servant, good paddy fields, pair of oxen, couple of cows and a buffalo. Perfect match as late Sukhram Sah would have called it. However there was a little snag. Ganpat Sah was nearing fifty and was already a grand father from his daughter's side.
"Look at his wealth and prosperity. Your daughter will live like a queen. Ganpat Sah promises to cover her with gold and he will also give you four thousand rupees," Hansuli’s mother was told by the matchmaker.
"And remember, there is no dearth of girls for rich men like him. On the other hand, your fatherless daughter is getting overage. You can not find any match for her, let alone such ideal match."

Hansuli was thus married off. She was a rich man's wife. On her first visit to her mother after marriage, she distributed sweets to all homes of her village, offered prayers to the local deity and gave two sarees to her mother. And of course, no one missed the Gulabad (gold necklace), ear-rings, a bulaak (V-shaped golden ring studded with diamonds) in the lower nose, a large nath (round shaped golden wire with precious stones) on the upper nose and the glittering bangles. She indeed looked like a queen.
Dhanpat Sah was rejuvenated in the company of his young beautiful wife. Hansuli gave birth to two sons. Ganpat Sah was overjoyed to have male descendants. Hansuli looked more charming and beautiful. Ganpat Sah's cup of happiness was full to the brim; rather overflowing.
Ganpat Sah could not hold the cup for long. Following summer, he was one of the victims of cholera epidemic in the villages around. Hansuli was left alone with her two sons and the world to face.

Ganpat Sah had a younger brother, Dhanpat Sah, who never approved of anything that his elder brother did. Dhanpat Sah was not happy when his elder brother married Hansuli. He had several reasons for his dislike for his elder brother, jealously being the foremost.
Dhanpat Sah had seven children; four daughters and three sons. He was a worried man, always swearing, cursing his fate and his brother in turn. "Why couldn't my elder brother give a little out of his riches to me, his only younger brother? Why should sons of the same father not help each other?” Dhanpat Sah often lamented.

Dhanpat Sah was further dejected when Hansuli gave birth to two sons for with it his hope of his brother dying without leaving any male descendent had been razed to dust. He cursed the day his brother married Hansuli, cursed his brother who according to him, despite one leg in the grave had married a young girl.
"What a perversion! When he should have devoted himself to prayers and weaned himself away from worldly allurements, he has brought a young bride to satisfy his lust.” Dhanpat Sah would lament before everyone he met.
The death of his elder brother therefore brought back glimpse of hope to Dhanpat Sah. If alone he could keep Hansuli in his fold, he could get a share from his brother's property. Hansuli was then twenty, a simple village woman unaware and incapable of comprehending Dhanpat Sah's designs. She had accepted him as the Karta (the head, the doer) of the family.
Hansuli helped generously when Dhanpat Sah's two daughters were married. She gave a part of her jewelry to her nieces and money to Dhanpat Sah for meeting other expenses.
Slowly, Dhanpat Sah had acquired authority in the household. He wanted his writ in all matters. Hansuli had to compromise for her sons were too young. The only wish, her only dream was to bring up her sons well; give them good education.

Dhanpat Sah lacked the skills of a good goldsmith and soon lost the clientele of his elder brother’s time. He closed the goldsmithy and opened a grocery shop. It hurt Hansuli but she realized that the shop had to be used in some way or the other to sustain the family.
Dhanpat Sah was now growing in health as well in ambition. His amorous interests were increasing as well. Hansuli was a fully developed woman now, beautiful and appealing. Hansuli could sense his designs and avoided Dhanpat Sah as much as possible. Dhanpat Sah would come to her in the evenings on one pretext or the other and unduly delay his departure.

One evening, when in a drunken state, Dhanpat Sah came to Hansuli who was feeding her children. Sitting on a charpoy (wooden bed woven with coir ropes), he complained of body ache and several ailments that were chasing him ever since he had taken over the responsibilities of both houses.
"My wife has not brought a bit of luck that you brought to my elder brother," he told her. Then he lamented over his wife's apathy towards him.
"Now that he is no more, why don't you share this luck with me? After all this is an accepted custom and your sons will get a father,” Dhanpat Sah suggested to her.

Hansuli was fed up with Dhanpat Sah’s advances; she in fact loathed his visits. The money her husband had left was running out fast for Dhanpat Sah always complained of poor sale and damages due to pests and rats.
Hansuli was enraged with the latest suggestion. The altercation between them was heightened. For Dhanpat Sah it was the moment of decision. “Either I get over the arrogance of this woman and subjugate her or she would become independent of me for all times,” he told to himself.
"I am going to sleep in this house and you will be my woman hereafter. I know the young studs chasing you around. I will not allow that to happen; I will not allow the honour of my family sullied. I am the Karta of this family and you will hereafter obey me implicitly as your man."
Hansuli writhed with anger. The insinuation of infidelity on one hand and the right to molestation on the other was too much to bear.
"What do you mean, you rascal? Have you ever seen me talking to a man? Aren't you ashamed to speak thus to your elder brother's widow?"
Dhanpat Sah had no proof of the serious insinuation but he didn’t want to give up. “Every woman desires a man and it takes no time for a young woman like you to slip. In any case why this can’t this remain within the family?"
"Get out of my house and next time if you ever come here, I will char your face with a burning wood. You devil! Get out", shouting thus, she closed the door at Dhanpat Sah’s face and bolted the room from inside.
"I will teach you bitch a lesson. I will make you my woman and I will see who comes to your rescue." Dhanpat Sah went back muttering threats. He was annoyed with every one and he wanted to avenge his insult. Above all, he wanted that woman to capitulate to his desire.

In the middle of a night, in that hill village when it is pitch dark and even dogs find it too inconvenient to bark due to biting cold, Dhanpat Sah was heading towards the house of his late brother. With a sickle in his hand, Dhanpat Sah was writhing with anger and burning with lust. A full bottle of country liquor that he had drained down his throat had apparent effect; his legs were unsteady, his hands were shaking, and his senses were out of his control.

He wanted to overpower the sleeping woman and once done, he wanted to tame for all times. That was the plan. But it didn't work. Hansuli was young and stronger. After initial reversal, she regained her strength coming to know that the intruder was none other than the debauch brother of her late husband. Dhanpat Sah lost the battle, his clothes were torn and his breath failed. The influence of liquor had incited him to raid his brother's wife but sapped his body strength. And a hard blow of wood pulled out from the hearth did the final act. This time Hansuli closed the door behind him after giving him a couple of hard kicks.

With much difficulty, Dhanpat Sah could reach back his house, where waiting for him was his aging wife. First- aid was given by the elderly woman to the wounded who was now much more determined to oust Hansuli; the woman who had usurped the property of his brother.

A few weeks later when Hansuli was out of her house, attending a marriage, her house was gutted by fire. The iron box containing all her cash and valuable clothes was no more than a twisted ash container and the silver box containing her jewelry was no where. There were doubts in everyone's mind but nothing could be substantiated. The net result was that Hansuli was reduced to abject penury and she had no option but to take shelter in Dhanpat Sah’s house.
The elder son of Hansuli was six by now and she was very keen that he should be sent to the school. Dhanpat Sah was not in favour of this. He wanted the young lad to help him in the shop and to attend to errand jobs. Hansuli was no more than a domestic servant in the household. This she didn't object but her sons being treated as labourers was intolerable to her. There were altercations often. She was beaten by Dhanpat Sah who still smarted under the insult of his amorous adventures. He had not succeeded in taming Hansuli and that hurt his male ego.

One night, emboldened by the influence of liquor, he again assaulted Hansuli. This time Hansuli was beaten severely, her blouse shred to pieces, and her sari pulled down. Hansuli and her children wailed loudly and shouted for help. Dhanpat Sah was not prepared for such a turn of events. He didn't know what to do. Taking advantage of that, Hansuli ran out of the house in the semi-clothed condition towards the village chowk. Villages folks had come out, they saw her plight, but thought it proper to let it remain a matter within the family.
After some time, Hansuli returned to her place. She saw her sons smitten with fear and sobbing behind the door. Hansuli took the decision. “This village is no more livable for us. If I were to labour, and yet get insulted; I should rather to go to some unknown place where I will not be assaulted,” she thought.
In the wee hours of the day, Hansuli left the house of her husband along with her two sons for an unknown destination. She took the first bus that was going to Gochar, a small town on way to the Hindu holy shrine of Badrinath.

It was now over three years that Hansuli was in the small town of Gochar. She was working in a small way side hotel which catered to the pilgrims to Badrinath during the summer months. Its owner, Than Singh, had a small room below the hotel which became the abode of Hansuli and her sons.
Than Singh was a jovial man in his early fifties. He talked a lot and enjoyed drinking in a company. He regaled his customers with jokes and was easily convinced by other person's arguments.
Than Singh would return to his village in the evening leaving the management of the tea-shop to Hansuli who would keep the place clean, start the oven in the morning and prepare tea for the early arrivals. Hansuli persuaded Than Singh to buy a buffalo so that the requirement of milk could be met locally. Than Singh admired Hansuli for bringing good luck to him.
Hansuli was satisfied. Both her sons were going to a school. In the afternoon they would come back and help her in serving the customers or delivering tea to other shops in that small market.

By now Hansuli knew that a widow was an object of desire and notwithstanding his good nature, Hansuli had realized that Than Singh was no exception. She therefore had to make a choice. She compromised this time and accepted the status of a servant and a mistress of Than Singh. It was a pragmatic arrangement that suited both the sides.
Than Singh helped Hansuli to acquire a piece of land adjoining the shop. Industrious as she was, she started growing vegetables in her land. Hansuli by now had some money of her own and she was bringing up her children well. She had forgotten her past, was happy with her present and cherished a dream for the future.

Her past but was dogging her. The word at last reached the remote village of Dhanpat Sah that his sister-in-law was working as a maid servant in a hotel in Gochar. Her newly acquired prosperity was told to him in multiple measures and of course he was told of her new status. It was this part of the information that inflamed the dormant ego of Dhanpat Sah. He decided to bring her back.

Gochar being a small town, Dhanpat Sah had no difficulty in locating Than Singh's hotel. He saw it from a distance and also saw his sister-in-law serving attending to the customers. He decided to wait till it was dark.
That fateful day, clouds had collected over the valley of river Alaknanda. It started drizzling by the evening and it was cold. Than Singh who had a good season that year, was in his element. He decided to celebrate the day's end with a bottle of liquor in the company of Hansuli.
The hotel had closed. Hansuli' sons now slept there, leaving the room below to their mother and Than Singh, her companion. Than Singh was enjoying his drink and Hansuli was cooking meals for him.
Suddenly, there was a big thud on the door and in came fully inebriated Dhanpat Sah giving a snide laugh to both of them.
He turned towards Hansuli and shouted, "So this is how you are bringing good name to the family. If you were so hungry of men, what was wrong with me, the younger brother of your husband? But you have the traits of a harlot, a prostitute and you need a new stud every night to satiate your lust." Then he suddenly lifted a burning wood from the hearth and moved towards Than Singh.
"First, I will teach you a lesson, you bastard!" He growled advancing towards Than Singh. Than Singh though younger and stronger than Dhanpat Sah was not prepared for such an awkward situation. He didn't want to create a scene. He was out of his wits, afraid of being denounced before his folks. Giving Dhanpat Sah a big push, he ran out of the house leaving Hansuli to deal with her visitor.

"And now you bitch, I will tell you what I am going to do with you. I will satiate your desire for ever," he said trying to catch hold of Hansuli. Hansuli once again cursed her fate.
"Go away, you devil. I have nothing to do with you. I left every bit of the property to you. I said not a word even when you burnt my house and took away all my gold and cash. Why don't you leave me and my children alone?"
"We will talk of that later. First you come to me, you bitch in heat", he said his voice slurring due to intoxication and excitement.

As he plunged towards her, Hansuli saw the sickle hanging on the wall. Mustering all her strength, she gave him a push and leaped for the sickle.
It was all in a flash. A full force blow and Dhanpat Sah was lying in a pool of blood shouting for help at the top of his failing voice.
Dhanpat Sah could not survive. Hansuli was tried for murder and the judge taking a lenient view sentenced her for fourteen years rigorous imprisonment. It was for meeting this punishment that she was being taken to the central jail.
As the van moved away, her thoughts returned to the small hill town of Gochar where her elder son washed the dishes and her younger son begged for alms.