As far as possible Ganesh was trying to avoid going to Madhurani’s shop. But today he could not help it. He had to buy some provisions and the other shop in the village was closed. This other shop used to be closed every Friday. They said that every Friday the shop keeper was possessed by the spirit of Saint Gajanan Maharaj.
But the day of Saint Gajanan Maharaj was widely accepted to be Thursday.
Then, instead of possessing the shop keeper on a Thursday
how come the Saint Gajanan Maharaj possesses him on Fridays …
Ganesh tried to unravel this puzzle. He asked several people. But no one could provide a satisfactory answer. Then one day, thinking on the matter, Ganesh got the answer. Thursday was the day of the village bazaar. On that day people from neighbouring villages also came to Ujni for purchases. On this single day of the bazaar the shopkeeper would earn what he normally got throughout the week. As such it was not profitable for him to keep his shop closed on a Thursday. Perhaps, that is why, making an adjustment, Saint Gajanan Maharaj possessed the shop keeper on a Friday instead of a Thursday. Ganesh smiled to himself at this discovery.
Carrying a bag to buy provisions Ganesh came out and locked his room. Trying as much as possible to avoid Madhurani’s glance, Ganesh went to her shop. But before he could tell what he needed a child of about 3-4 years came running into the shop.
“Aunty, give me a chocolate..” he said placing a one rupee coin on the wooden box placed before Madhurani.
“Oh, auntie’s pet… you have come after such a long time … where were you all these days..” Madhuranai pulled him near and said, throwing a sly glance at Ganesh.
“Go away.. I am going to cut-off with a person.. I am not going to talk to one person..” Madhurani, pretending to be offended with the child, said with good affection. In between she threw meaningful glances at Ganesh.
“Auntie …chocolate..” the child once again asked.
“Wait my young one..” Madhurani said looking sideways at Ganesh and kissed him two three times.
Madhurani released the child and kept a chocolate in his hand. As soon as the child got the chocolate, he ran out of the shop.
“keep coming like this, my little one..” Madhrani loudly called after him.
The child continued to run. He looked back at Madhurani and smiled.
“A real sweet child,” Madhurani said to Ganesh.
Madhurani had said this directly to Ganesh, but he did not know what to say in return.
“Yes..indeed .. children are God’s gift,” Ganesh managed to speak out.
“You believe in God?” Madhurani asked Ganesh.
“I have belief… and at the same time I also don’t have belief.”
“You should never stand on two banks… you must choose one of the two… otherwise you will suffer,” Madhurani said meeting Ganesh’s eyes.
There was a shade of displeasure in her voice. Ganesh began to try to decipher the hidden meaning in her talk
“Leave it aside. You have come after a long time .. is it to buy something or just like that..,” Madhurani suddenly changed her mood and asked him a little caustically.
“No.. not like that.. I needed some provisions..” Ganesh said feeling uncomfortable.
“That’s why I was surprised… how is it that the sun had come up in the West?” Madhurani taunted him.
“No, its not like that, “ Ganesh tried to cover it up.
“And that too, being a Friday the other shop must be closed today. …that’s why you must have come here,” Madhurani said with obvious displeasure.
Ganesh did not know how to answer her.
Seeing Ganesh’s apologetic looks, Madhurani gave a loud laughter.
“Oh, you have taken offence. I was just joking,” Madhurani confessed with a smile.
Ganesh was surprised that Madhurani could change her moods so quickly. Perhaps, she too must have been confused and unable to decide how to react.
But one thing was certain. Madhurani did not seem to have liked his indifferent behaviour.
Ganesh suddenly felt stirred. Madhurani began to seem like a girl in love abandoned by her lover. He could make out the turmoil of her heart. Perhaps to hide this turmoil her moods were changing so rapidly. He felt a great desire to quickly step forward and take her in his embrace and console her.
Perhaps my behaviour was truly too harsh.
I should not have behaved so indifferently.
Her life-mate husband was no more with her…
Maybe that is why she was seeing in me her life partner.
But how could I take the place of her life-mate ..
I have my own limitations…
Even then what is wrong in doing whatever is possible and still remain within those limits …
By then Madhurani had taken Ganesh’s provisions and had kept before him.
“Here, have your provisions,” Madhurani said.
“But I had not given you a list of my requirement..”
“Ganeshrao … do I know you only from a day or two... when and what you need… what things you need.. I fully know them by now.”
And really, Madhurani had taken out only those items that Ganesh needed…
She observes me so keenly…
Right from which soap I need …
Which tea-leaves I use …
And how much …
Truly, has she begun to like me ..
She must surely be…
Otherwise why should she observe me so keenly …
Immersed in these thoughts Ganesh began to put the provisions in his bag. He was finding it difficult to hold the bag with one hand and put in the purchased articles with the other.
“Let me hold the bag for you,” Madhurani said and held the bag in both her hands.
One end of the bag was already held by Ganesh. Madhurani held that end in such a manner that Ganesh’s hand came under her hand. When Madhurani unexpectedly held his hand Ganesh got confused. He quickly removed his hand from hers. But the very next moment he felt sorry.
He had unnecessarily taken away his hand.
What a good opportunity was presented by Madhurani….
But it is true that God gives and Fate takes it off …
I must again hold the other end of the bag…
He began to make up his mind to hold the end which had Madhurani’s hand. But he could not dare to.
Seeing Ganesh’s futile attempt Madhurani smiled and said, “stupid hand .. Totally stupid hand … wonder how your wife would be managing.
Hey, what are you doing?
She is striking at your manliness.
Ganesh made up his mind and tried to hold the side of the bag held in Madhurani’s hand. But by then all provisions were already stuffed into the bag.
Seeing Ganesh hold the bag and also her hand, Madhurani teased him asking, “Is there anything more that needs to be put in the bag?”
“No this is all,” Ganesh said and jerked his hand away.
Madhurani began to give him a naughty smile.
Ganesh, embarrassed and confused, had turned red. He was also getting angry on himself. That he was unable to handle the situation well. His face turned redder. In that condition he quickly lifted the bag and traced hasty steps towards his room.
Before opening the room’s lock he turned and glanced at Madhurani. She was still looking at him with a naughty smile. For no reason he felt that the feeling, “ how naïve he is ..how is he going to manage” had appeared in her eyes. He quickly stepped into the room. He did not have the courage even to close the door. After entering the room he straight away went to the bath room. He took out water in the mug and sprayed cold water on his face.
What are you doing…
Like a stupid person…
She is giving signal again and again …
And you are behaving like a duffer …
No.. something must be done..
Ganesh tightened his jaw with determination.
I tried my best to control myself.
But Madhurani, you did not allow my efforts to succeed.
Now I have lost ..
Lost completely …
Now I would not be responsible for whatever that happens hereafter …
For that, Madhurani you will be wholly responsible…
These thoughts made Ganesh relieved. He had lost his feeling of guilt.
(to be contd.)
Original Novel by Sunil Doiphode
English Version by Anil Ekbote