Ganesh reached the bridge. The right side of the bridge was rocky and there seemed several hollows in between that was why women were not to be seen on the right side. At the right, boys were swimming at one place. In between, suddenly a boy would climb a high rock and jump from there into the water. As soon as he jumped other children held their breath and hid under water. The one who had taken the plunge would go under water and touch one of the boys. Then it would be the boy’s turn to continue with the game. He also climbed a high rock on the bank of the stream and jumped into the water from there. The game was increasingly becoming interesting. At the left of the bridge, the stream was shallow and almost flat. There, Ganesh saw a group of women washing clothes. Keeping large stones on the bank of the shallow water, the women were washing clothes by thrashing them on the stones. There were at least ten to fifteen ‘dhap…dhap’ sound made by the thrashing of the clothes. While thrashing clothes the women also made ‘su…su..’ sound. To Ganesh all those sounds seemed linked in special lyrical notes. Beside those women, little children sprayed water on each other or threw pebbles in the water. A little older child from among them would bend his hand and fling a pebble which took several frog-like jumps before it sank in the stream.
While getting down from the left side of the bridge Ganesh’s roving eyes began to look out for Madhurani among the group of women. He spotted her wearing a yellow sari, far away on the other side of the stream. Ganesh’s way also crossed the stream and went to the other bank. He pulled his trouser up and began to cross the shallow water of the stream. Holding his trouser up with one hand and with the other carrying the mug of water was not easy for him. On the way, in the shallow water stones were laid to keep feet on. In some place the stone from the stream itself was protruding. Standing on a rock Ganesh kept aside the mug of water and began to tuck his trouser securely further up. When he was thus tucking his trouser he was able to see little fish swimming in the shallow water. Tucking the trouser at his knees he again got down into the water. The moment he stepped into the water the fish that had gathered near the rock scattered away. Raising his heels as high as possible he began to walk on his toes. At last he reached the other side of the stream. Even after trying hard to keep the bottom of his trouser from getting wet they had got wet. On reaching the other side of the stream he once again kept the mug of water down on a stone and pulled the tucked trouser loose. He threw a glance at Madhurani. She was on the same bank, washing clothes. But she was about one hundred metres away. Away from the group of other women she was washing clothes alone. She had not yet seen Ganesh.Ganesh picked up the mug and began to walk towards her.
As he neared Madhurani he saw that she was still engrossed in washing clothes. She was not aware of her surroundings. But to keep her sari from becoming wet while washing clothes, she had it pulled it up and tucked high above her knees exposing her bare thighs. It was the first time that Ganesh was having a glimpse of her plump, smooth and golden-white thighs. And the bulge of her breast that churned and peeped out of her blouse as she washed the clothes began to make him mad. He walked towards her as if mesmerised. He reached near her. She must have sensed his presence. She stopped beating the clothes and looked up at Ganesh. As soon as their eyes met she blushed and giving a faint smile pulled her tucked in sari free and readjusted her pullo. But she did not want to show that she had done this because of his arrival. Therefore she picked wet clothes from a bucket kept nearby and began to drain water off them. As she twisted the clothes she was giving him a smile and was looking at him slyly. Ganesh went near her and stood. For a couple of moments no one spoke. Then Ganesh broke the silence and said, “So..you come here to wash clothes, is it?”
“What else can I do, there are no taps like you have in your city.” As she twisted clothes to drain off the water with one hand, with the other she brushed aside the locks of hair that had fallen on her face. Ganesh was still staring at her. Suddenly he came to senses and looked around. He felt that other women who were washing clothes were giving them meaningful looks as such he moved ahead.
It was not good to linger here.
After moving ahead a little he turned and looked at Madhurani. Having drained off the water, she was spreading the clothes on the sand to dry. Even then, every now and then, she was giving him sly looks.
Really, such beautiful and bold Madhurani had come to be in a wrong place.
Or she was born at a wrong place?
Had she been in the city she would have reached great heights.
But it is all one’s fate.
Ganesh thought as he continued to walk. After going far ahead he once again looked back. Madhurani had once again tucked her sari high above her knees and was beating clothes on the stone with all her might. But by now he had left her far behind. He was not able to see her clearly. She seemed to have again become engrossed in washing clothes. Perhaps she was also giving him sly looks.
(to be contd.)
Original Novel by Sunil Doiphode
English Version by Anil Ekbote