In the morning Ganesh went to Madhurani’s shop. The shop was open but Madhurani was not there. Vilas – the boy from the neighbourhood - was sitting at the cash counter. Earlier Madhurani used to make him do the accounts. Ganesh wanted to ask him where Madhurani had gone. But he did not ask. He could not gather courage to do so.
Don’t know what he would think....
It is not proper to make such enquiry early morning.
She must be somewhere around…
In the afternoon before the shop closed, Ganesh once again went to have a look. But Madhurani had not yet returned. Again Vilas was managing the cash counter. On many earlier occasions too he used to sit in Madhurani’s shop. But it was the first time that Ganesh saw him sitting continuously for such a long time. Ganesh could have seen him right from his window but somehow he did not feel comfortable unless he visited the shop. And then there was the hope that perhaps she might return by the time he went to the shop.
Has this woman gone to some other village or town?...
That too, without letting him know….
Ganesh again felt like finding it out.
But no, let it be….
She would return by evening.
But even in the evening Ganesh went to the shop and found Vilas sitting at the cash counter.
Now he must ask and find out.
“How come you are in the shop today?”.. Ganesh tried to make his query seem as casual as he could.
But Vilas wouldn’t answer straight away.
“Did you have any work?” he asked.
“No. I just asked casually” Ganesh said taking care that no particular kind of expression appeared on his face.
But Vilas turned out to be far clever. “No, you are coming here for the third time since morning, that is why I asked,” he looked sharply into Ganesh’s face and tried to gauge his reaction.
“Yes. I did have some work… But where did she go?” Ganesh now came out in the open and asked. Of course he had no other choice. If he were to talk of this and that again he would begin to be suspected.
“She has gone to the field;”
“To the field?.. has she gone for harvesting?” Ganesh deliberately tried to enliven the atmosphere with this casual remark made with a loud laughter.
“No… she has thrashing in her field. That is why she has there…”
“ thrashing…where they separate chaff from grains?.. .But isn’t that taken care of by Sambhaji Rao?”…
“I don’t know all that..” he said and began to attend a customer who was waiting in front of him.
Ganesh was not interested in asking him anything more.
Now, why has this woman gone to the field ?”…
It is time for her to return from the field…
Ganesh turned away from the shop and began to walk towards the bazaar. As it wasn’t a Thursday the bazaar was nothing but a vast empty ground.
But he could at least spend some time there….
This would be better than to sit in the room waiting for her…
Even after waiting all afternoon, evening and night Madhurani did not come. Unable to see her Ganesh found himself in great agony. He had no courage left to now ask anyone about her. Truly, he was getting so involved in her.
This wasn’t a good sign.
But then, it was because of her that his job in the village had become tolerable.
Otherwise it was so difficult to work in this dry forsaken village.
In the night, while thinking about her he just drifted into sleep. Suddenly he woke up in the night. The moment he woke up his first thought was about Madhurani.
Has she returned or not?…
Let me find out.
Ganesh got up from the bed and looked out of the window. There was a room beside Madhurani’s house; he saw a bullock cart standing there. Madhurani used that room as a godown to store tools of her field. Perhaps items from Madhurani’s field had come which she was storing in the godown.
Come, as it is he was not feeling sleepy….
He could go and have a few words with Madhurani.
That would make him feel relaxed and calm.
Thinking thus, Ganesh got up and dressed in shirt and trouser. Now a day the summer heat had increased a lot making Ganesh sleep only in his undergarment and vest. He came out of the room closed the door and began to walk towards Madhurnai’s godown.
(to be contd.)
Original Novel by Sunil Doiphode
English Version by Anil Ekbote