He lightly sounded the bolt of Madhurani’s open door.
How come, there was no sound from inside.
Madhurani… is she at home?...
Ganesh again sounded the bolt.
“Who’s it?” a sweet voice asked from inside.
Ganesh could not utter a word.
Sound refused to come out of his mouth.
If my condition becomes like this here, what would happen later?...
Come, let me quickly turn back.
But no, it was no good to run away at the opportune moment. …
Running away was not a sign of courage….
It was certainly not of manliness….
I must show some courage.
I must exhibit manliness.
However bold may the woman be, the man has to take a lead.
“Who is it?” again the voice came from inside. Now it seemed a little annoyed.
“It’s me..Ganesh..” somehow Ganesh managed to blurt.
He was happy with it. And he picked up more courage.
He must show more such courage.
“Ganesh… come in.. I am here..changing clothes” her voice came from inside.
An image of Madhurani as she changed her clothes floated before Ganesh’s eyes.
All these days I was just imagining her body. Possibly today it is time to see it in person.
His breathing became harder.
It was not necessary for her to tell him that she was changing her clothes.
That means, she had purposely told him that she was changing her clothes…
Should it be considered as a part of an invitation…
Yes, of course…. When she is sending signal after signal from so many days..
How much more explicitly must she give her signal…
Ganesh slowly entered the house. After entering he did not fail to bolt the door from inside.
While putting on the bolt, he realised that his hand was trembling and legs had gone weak. He fixed the bolt and turned to go inside. He took a deep breath and again tried to muster his courage.
“Sit there, on the platform… on the stringed cot” the voice again came from inside.
She could have just asked him to sit on the platform.
She seemed to have some secret intention in asking him to sit on the stringed cot,…
Certainly this too was a way of inviting.
Now, should he go straight inside…
Again Madhurani’s clothless figure floated in front of his eyes.
Yes, he must go in…
This was a good chance…
He walked to the stringed cot laid on the platform. Now he began to gather courage to straight away go in where Madhurani was possibly changing her clothes.
But what was this. His mind was ready to go in. But his legs were not cooperating. They had gone numb. Sweat broke out on his entire body. If Madhurani saw him in such a state what would she think He slumped on the stringed cot spread on the platform. After sitting down he felt a little better. He took out a kerchief from the pocket of his shirt and began to wipe his sweat.
“Madhurani I wanted some water… I am very thirsty… Today the servant did not fill water”, he did not realise that he had spoken this out.
It was not proper to remain totally silent.
The atmosphere had to be eased by talking something.
He consoled his mind.
“Its only water that you want, isn’t it?.. Then why all these explanations… are you ever barred from coming to my house” Madhurani teased Ganesh from inside.
Have you ever been stopped from coming to my house …
Madhurani’s sentence began to revolve in his head.
This was also an invitation.
That too, candidly open.
Now, he must do something… “No it’s not like that, Ganesh sprang from the cot and said what ever that came to his mind. Slowly he began to go in the direction from where Madhurani’s voice was coming.
“I’ll get it in a minute…after tying my hair…” Madhurani said coming out.
Ganesh quickly moved behind and sat on the stringed cot.
Again he had missed an opportunity…
In such matter timing was very important…
How many times would I miss opportunities?
If this keeps happening every time…
One day she will refuse me…
And would also say… he was stupid…
He was of no use.
Ganesh looked at her. Madhurani had worn a green sari. She looked stunning in the green sari. His glance automatically met hers. Ganesh saw a kind of naughtiness in her eyes. Ganesh felt encouraged. The disappointment that had filled his mind now vanished completely.
The place where Ganesh sat had a deoli, a small hollow in the wall. Madhurani went there holding the hair pain in her teeth and the combed hair in her hand. There was much space for her to lean and look into the deoli. But Madhurani touched her thighs with those of Ganesh and leaned over searching something in the deoli. This was yet another confirmed invitation for Ganesh. Ganesh’s hands began to itch to hold her by her waist. Ganesh picked up courage and stretched his hands. He was about to embrace her by throwing his hands around her waist when she turned back and began to go inside. Perhaps she had found what she was looking in the deoli. A look of disappointment and of having missed another opportunity spread on Ganesh’s face. Ganesh looked at her figure that was going in. Her fair neck and shoulders peeping out of the wide neck of her blouse seemed to be calling him. Before going in she paused at the door and gave Ganesh an ardent look. She went in and Ganesh sat on the cot all hurt and disappointed. He suddenly sprang up.
He must do something now…
A better opportunity may not present itself again…
He began to walk towards the room into which Madhurani had gone. His breathing became heavy. He brushed off the fear from his mind. His body was now filled with strong determination. He went and stood in the door of that room. Madhurani, her back turned towards him, was combing her hair. Because he stood in the door, the room suddenly became darkened. She must have surely sensed his arrival. But she was still engrossed in combing her hair. He began to go near her. He began to become aware of the increased pace and heat of his breathing. His ears too began to emit heat. He found all this unbearable.
One… two…three.. he held his breath and like an animal pouncing on its prey he rushed and caught hold of her hand. He was pleased that at last he had done what he had thought of doing since long.
Now he waited for Madhurani’s response.
Jerking her hand free Madhurani moved aside. This was rather unexpected. She looked at him. He tried to gauge the feeling expressed by her eyes. But try however he was unable to phathom them.
Was she angry at his daringness?
Was she still encouraging him or …
He was not able to understand anything. Gathering courage he once again tried to hold her hand.
“What is it that you are doing?” he heard Madhurani’s voice.
Throwing at him a sharp look Madhurani began to walk out of the room.
Again his breathing became hard… he began to sense the heat of his breath…his ears began to tingle with heat… but this time because of a feeling of shame for having being taken for a ride.
This means that she has rejected his love.
Ganesh found it hard to believe.
How could he go wrong in understanding her feelings?
He had lost all courage… He felt like slumping down.
While going Madhurani turned and stood in the door. He saw in her eyes feelings such as anger, love, hatred, remorse and loathing.
He could bear anything but not her anger and loathing.
Unnecessarily he had got entangled in this mess.
They say that that even Gods cannot fathom a woman’s mind. It was indeed very true.
He was angry on himself. He was also angry on Madhurani. He controlled himself and tracing quick steps walked out. He had no courage to look at Madhurani. But from the corners of his eyes he gave her a sly look. Then tracing quick steps he reached the closed door of the room. He opened the bolt. Before stepping out he slyly looked at Madhurani.
In her eyes he seemed to notice the feelings that said, “Wait..don’t leave me midway and go away like this.”
But no, better avoid her…
Till now he had failed to correctly understand her….
Let him not repeat that mistake…
He jerked the door open and stepped out. He did not even bother to turn and look.
Outside, even in the sun, he felt better. A gust of cool breeze touched and ran over his sweaty body. He felt cool.
Good..the matter was finally decided.
How long could he keep it prolonged…
He came out of Madhurani’s house and for quite a long time lingered in front of his room.
“Where can he go now?”..
To his room?..
Or to the wedding?...
In the room he would have felt lonely. He despised any kind of loneliness. Meaning he was scared to remain alone. If he could go to the wedding… there would be no privacy at all… But he also did not want a noisy crowd. Then, leaving behind his room and the wedding hall, he began to walk to wherever his steps took him. He walked towards the bazaar that was on the other side of the marriage hall. While walking he paid no attention to his surroundings.
As it was not a Thursday, the ground of the bazaar was wholly vacant. He stood alone in the vacant ground. He looked all over the ground. In that vast ground he was standing alone.
Feeling desolate …
Next, for a long time he wandered like mad in the village. Almost all people had gone for the wedding as such the village seemed all empty. As if a team of bandits had just ransacked and looted it. As he wandered he suddenly sensed a human presence. Someone’s voice was coming. He turned in that direction. When he neared it he found that he had come and stood in front of the dumb girl’s house. The house was locked from outside.
The people from the dumb girl’s house would certainly not have gone for the wedding.
Where then could they have gone… locking the door …
They must have gone into the fields…
But the sound was coming from inside the house…Sound that stirred the soul… Numbing all senses of the listener… the dumb girl’s shrieks.. they were her broken heart’s shrieks… possibly his own heart must also been shrieking like this… but it was heard only by him and no one else.
(to be contd.)
Original Novel by Sunil Doiphode
English Version by Anil Ekbote