Cruel strokes of destiny, p.1
Cruel Strokes Of Destiny, p.1Pushpa Ramchandani
CRUEL STROKES OF DESTINY
Copy right 2012 by Dr Pushpa Ramchandani
Smash words Edition
“I have no regrets in my life. I think that everything happens to you for a reason. The hard times that you go through build your character, making you a much stronger person.”
Born and brought up in lavish surroundings of a very wealthy family, with a silver spoon in her mouth. She grew up as a warm and good natured person with a sweet smile that would brighten everyone’s day, her nature carefree, in a sort of happy- go- lucky type of youthfulness. Her pure and utter happiness, though, was one to be feared, not admired, for they don’t let anyone be so profoundly happy unless they’re preparing to take something from them. And like that, destiny, fate, karma, whatever you want to call it prescribed a different script for her, one which would challenge the very quality that defined her: that charming smile, that loving gaze, that rare innocence. To comprise with life at every step, became a compulsion for her. Anyone would have been crushed by the harsh, lifeless blows of fate but she, as they like to say, roughed by the storm and survived, changing her path and changing the lives of many who came in her contact along her life journey. She spread smiles and solace to all around her. When she went, she left thousands in tears. She will remain in their hearts for years to come.
Dedicated to my father, who in spite of social taboos and sufferings, educated me and inspired me at every step of life, to achieve higher goals. He was the stepping stone in the foundation of my character, my inspiration, my strength and aim to strive for the highest achievements in life. All this was due to my beloved father.
A special word of thanks to my dear husband Dr Prabhu Ramchandani
For his cooperation and help extended at every step of writing and editing the book.
This novel is a work of fiction. The resemblance of any character or a person or a place is purely coincidental. Some incidents have been taken from the author’s experiences of life and from those who came in close contact with her. The author has tried to depict the lives of those who struggled and suffered in the pre and post partition era of the year 1947. Some of the incidents were the original happenings of those days. As narrated to her by her elders.
These incidences occurred on both sides of the border. Both communities suffered the pangs of partition. Few descriptive paragraphs have been taken from websites.
Chapter 1 Pre partition era
Chapter 2 failure of early marriage.
Chapter 3 Partition and struggle period.
Chapter 4 Spiritual Journey.
Chapter5 Lethal stroke of destiny.
The port town of Surat was still in deep slumber, as I, fondly called Gurumaa by my followers, was still awake and watching my doctor explains to my children and my followers, my condition. Everyone knew it was grave but still they were hoping against hope, of some miracle, which may save my life even for few hours or days. I knew this they were doing out of love and attachment for me. Since I was declared a case of cancer abdomen they were all tense. They had hidden this fact from me for quite some time. But from their hushed voices and multiple tests I could guess something was seriously wrong. They had put all their efforts along with my followers. They ran from pillar to post, left no stone unturned. They tried every branch of medicine, sought blessings from holy men, but destiny had decided it otherwise. It was only my daughter and her husband, who were doctors and knew every detail of my ailment, and the irreversible state.
I knew my end was nearing and my mind started taking stock of my life. I knew fate had been very cruel to me. It had given me less but had snatched away too much. My mind went to the theory of karma, which says you have to pay for the deeds done in the past life. This is what I used to explain to my followers, but I knew it was easy to preach but very difficult to face it in real life. Who knows about the past life? It is just an assumption. As far as I could remember, none of my deeds in this life were offensive, then why did I have to face all that?
My senses were getting numb, but my mind was having a flash back of my past life. Within moments I reviewed my entire life, as if I was trying to relive every moment of my life again and see for myself the places where things went wrong. I know it was too late to rectify anything because I could sense death fast approaching. I vividly remembered my loving husband arguing with me many a times and pointing out to me my mistakes. But I would never admit any of these and finally he would lose his patience and give up. His last sentence invariably used to be, “I know you will remember all this when I am gone or you will admit your mistakes when you are on your death bed.” And today that day has come for me; he is not with me and I am breathing my limited last breaths. I wish to recapitulate my entire life.
I felt a tight constriction in my chest and started taking rapid breaths. The doctor glanced at the drip rate, which was probably running too fast. So it was slowed down. My pulse and blood pressure recorded on the progress chart. If I were more alert I would call it a regress chart. I know, after this there would be no progress, the end was fast approaching.
I could vividly recall my mother’s image in the bloom of her youth, good looking, sophisticated though not well-educated; she was a saintly person, who believed in compassion to all around her, even the insects, birds and animals. Her mornings started with a bath, prayers, followed by feeding of birdies on the roof top. Many a times after waking up in the morning I used to go hunting for her in the big mansion that we lived in, and invariably I used to find her on the roof top; cleaning the birdies water bowls and their feeding pots and pouring fresh water and grains for them. Though there were servants around, but she derived special pleasure in this service. She was elegance personified. Her sympathetic attitude to all the employees, had won their hearts and they used to respect her like their mother.
She had a long pointed nose perched on prominent shining cheek bone, with a good whitish complexion. Her almond shaped eyes were raven black, as was the colour of her hair. She always kept her hair neatly braided with a central parting .She stood out among others due to her spotless dress. She had no airs around her, in spite of being the mistress of a huge mansion with a number of servants around her. She was the only daughter of a very ordinary landlord and had one brother who was employed at her farms, but was respectfully treated by all.
Then the next picture which became brighter in my mind was that of my father. He had acquired his father’s wealth at a very young age, but because of his brains and hard work, he had multiplied it ten times within a short span of time. A very respectable figure in the town, a helping, and kind hearted personality. My brother was only 2 years younger to me. We had a wonderful childhood in our palatial house with all the comforts. I can simply say that we were born with silver spoons in our mouth and lived a luxurious and care free life.
I remember very vividly going to school in our buggy, horse cart, which used to wait there till the close of school. Our servant used to bring hot lunch for us and feed us properly as he would be answerable to my mother if the job was not done sincerely. How and when our childhood slipped into adolescence, I just can’t remember. Riches easily obtained often spoil the children. So it was with us too. I wa
She was immediately interrupted by my father, “Don’t worry; I will take care of everything. We have only two children to share all our wealth. I will give her so much that she has the same standard of life.”
He paused for a moment scratched the sparse tuft of grey hair and continued, “Ram, the boy whom I have chosen for her is a very brilliant boy with a bright future.”
Then one day, while I was playing with my doll house, my mother came and sat beside me. She said in a very loving and affectionate tone, “Darling, now you will go to your own house and leave behind your doll houses.” I just stared back at her, thinking she is planning to give away my toys to some servants. Then she explained to me, “every girl has to get married and go to her husband’s house, we have chosen a perfect match for you who will take very good care of you. “So the marriage was solemnized, and I was sent with a couple of servants and plenty of riches to take care of my comforts.
My husband was tall dark, handsome, and well-built. He had a long pointed nose with a scar across it, a sign of childhood injury. He always wore white starched spotless clothes, was worldly wise, and well known for his honesty. Most of the time, people used to approach him for settling their disputes, which he dealt with very efficiently. He was very loving and affectionate. Since he knew my family background, he tried his best to provide all the basic comforts of life. My father very tactfully made him a partner in his business saying, “You know my son is young and immature and cannot help in my extensive business. Once we become partners, your active participation will enhance our profits also. “In this way he also ascertained that his only daughter would be assured of a comfortable standard of living to which she was accustomed. He knew my husband was a man of principles and would never accept any help.
With the riches, I built a domain of my own, and developed superiority over the entire family, and dominated everyone in the joint family. Business went on expanding, the happy times rolled away soon and our family multiplied after every 2 years. My eldest 2 children usually lived with my parents, as my brother was issueless and my children were their only grandchildren. They were pampered and well cared for over there and I was relieved of my duty of rearing them
My journey of the past had probably diverted me from my present agony, the childhood and the first two decades of my married life was so pleasant that it alleviated most of my pain and encouraged me to linger on, in my past memories for some more moments.
I saw my eldest daughter as a small girl of 12 years in a small town of Larkana in the pre partition era .she was the first born in the whole joint family. She was chubby and beautiful in comparison to other siblings and was full of energy. She was a happy go lucky girl who grabbed life with both hands. Her maternal grandparents were very fond of her, and both my elder children had spent most of their childhood with them .They gave in to all their demands, whether right or wrong. She was fond of good food, clothes and spent most of her time in playing.
Unfortunately she had no liking for studies and used to shun studies, most of the time she used to bunk classes, on some excuse of illness. She hated to go to school like most students. But even with the passage of time I noticed no change in her. She always remained in search of plans to run away from studies. One day her most ridiculous excuse was, “I lost my bag. Now, how will I study without my books? ”Don’t worry my child; you have to study in any case, I will buy a new bag and books for you, “Was the reply from her father. Finally, due to her disinterest, she dropped out from school after basic schooling. Education for girls in those days was a taboo. Ladies were meant for rearing of children.
My eldest son Nandu was good looking and used to fancy himself as a film star. He was an average student but due to ill health, did not make much progress; I clearly remember how he used be forcibly sent to school, he used to bunk coaching classes and waste his time in playing marbles on the roadside. Then come home posing to be back from classes. On one occasion, he had bunked his class for a week and when the teacher met me in the market, she asked about his health and told about his absence from class. I was smart enough to understand the bunk business. I continuously asked him to admit his fault, but he insisted that he was regularly going for the coaching, he was bold and silly enough to go with me to the coaching institute and face the teacher. The teacher was surprised to see him after a week and asked, “Child where were you all these days?” I still remember how I had protected him by saying, “He was ill, so I came with him to ask you not to scold him.” this was a smart step; I protected him there, but gave him a good thrashing later.
Nandu fell ill when he was doing diploma course. Ailment was very serious. He was having severe headache and vomiting. Many tests were done. A needle was put in to drain spinal fluid for diagnosis. I was dreading some serious disease and I talked to the attending doctor. I could make out that the diagnosis will not be pleasant to hear. He declared that Nandu is having meningitis. In those days it was a dreadful disease.
Nandu responded to treatment but developed ptosis (drooping of the lid) of the right eye and one of his eyes started appearing smaller, and his headache was persisting. He was given a shot of steroid in the eye. His condition showed improvement but he was far from being comfortable. We decided to try some other alternate therapy also, but without any response. I had heard about a saint who had powers to cure ailments. With great difficulty I could convince my husband .He agreed very reluctantly saying, “I just don’t understand how a saint will cure the after effects of meningitis.” On my insistence we went to Nasik, a holy town.
I was surprised to see many families who had brought their sick wards. As we were ushered in the hall, a young girl became delirious and pointing her finger to Nandu she said “Doctor you are the one who destroyed my life. You have come here also to harm me again”. It was difficult to control her. I could see few people from our town smiling and enjoying this scene.
Nandu was taken in and Swami Ji blessed him.
We returned to our home. Nandu’s headache subsided but his eye remained smaller. People in our hometown stared addressing him as Doctor. Everyone called him a doctor. Finally Nandu had to drop out of his diploma course.
My youngest son Manik and youngest daughter Reena were entirely different. Both were interested in studies and had their own dreams and ambitions. I think it is rightly said that education is written in your destiny; these two children were destined to attain high education, and so they achieved their goals. Ours was a huge joint family, all in one compound, but in their individual separate houses. My portion of the enclave was considered the best, with all the modern amenities of that time.
I was fully aware of my husband’s position in society which was partly because of my father’s help, so my dominating nature and ego bloated and I developed an upper hand in every decision. All that I was concerned about was that all my demands of jewelry and clothes were fulfilled. The domestic servant, who had come with me at the time of my marriage from my father’s house, took care of all the comforts “.Moti, come and play with the children.” I used to order.
My children always stood out in the crowd of their cousins by the attire, by the accompanying servants, and by the airs which probably they had inherited from me. They were a good company amongst themselves, and never felt the necessity to add cousins or relatives to thei
Probably the curves of the body had started developing, and both girls were asked to discard all the short dresses, and start wearing full shalwarkurta and drape a dupatta around the neck, which they hardly knew how to manage, but rules of the family had to be followed. Though my younger girl was three years smaller than her elder sister, but because of her height and health, they looked the same age. In the successive two years my elder daughter Kala was asked to learn the household chores from Moti, our domestic servant. I had just said, “You are growing big now, so do what you are told to do. “It was nothing new for me because I had seen myself go through similar change.
My tone was serious and concerned, when I had discussed it with my husband, Ram, “she is going to complete 16 next month, we were married when I was 16,” I had said to him. We sat in the balcony of our bed room, listening to the soft music of our gramophone, sipping morning tea. He was also well aware of his responsibilities, and remarked, “Yes, I have been on the lookout and have come across a few good proposals; I am just trying to probe into the details. One family seems very keen and they are coming to meet us next week.
One fine day I just approached my daughter and said, “kala wear this new dress and please don’t go out to play with your friends and dirty yourself.” Then I gave her a good hairdo, braided her waist long raven black hair into two plaits with matching ribbons, dabbed some powder smoothly on her face to give her a fairer look. Then I outlined her eyes with a liner and said, “Darling, listen, some people are coming to see you today. Talk in a soft tone, not your usual harsh voice. Answer all their questions, and please keep your eyes and head down.”
There was a queer shiver of fear in my mind and suddenly I felt nervous. How could she leave her beloved parents and live in an unknown home with new people and new surroundings.
There was a knock on the door and Moti entered, “Baby, you have been called in the living room.” He said to Kala looking very excited.
Kala had been given prior instructions to walk gracefully, talk softly, with head hung down, which she followed. She timidly opened the creaking old mahogany door and entered living room. Sat on the sofa, opposite to the strangers .She gave a quick glance around the room and observed 5 persons, her father, her uncle and three strangers of her father’s age. I stood behind the door watching my daughter’s performance. Kala’s thoughts were hammered by a soft low tone voice from one of the strangers, who ran an impatient hand through what was left of his greying hair. He pushed up the half glasses which stubbornly refused to park on the bridge of his nose. “What is your name?” The low volume voice was in no way matching with the hefty build of the speaker. As per the strict instructions from me, to keep the eyes, head and tone low, she replied in a tingling voice “Kala Wati.”I was slyly watching this whole drama through the crevice of the door of the adjacent room. Ladies were not supposed to participate in all these discussions and I was no exception, though I was craving to rush in and meet them all and ask them why they had not brought the boy.
The next question was shot at her by the other visitor, “up to which class have you studied?” “class 6th”, was her short and crisp reply. The third question that darted at her was, alarming for me also, and I felt anxious to hear her answer. She was asked whether she knows cooking. I felt like saying “ No, Moti doing everything for us.” But out of fear and obedience she just nodded her head in a positive reply. Then she was asked to go, and she finally ran to her own room, where I had already reached from my hiding place. There had been a dozen plates with different items like nuts, fruits, sweets, but only a few had been touched. The visitors sat there for some time and then took Ram’s leave to go.
Kala said “Mummy, why they were so soft, I could hardly hear them. Had you given them the same instructions to talk softly . I smiled at her innocence and said, “They were testing your hearing power. When we see a girl or a boy for matrimonial purpose, we try and confirm the five basic sense organs are normal, and this is the reason they spoke softly.” I was shrewd enough to observe the tension on her face so I kept my hand on her shoulder compassionately and said, “Kala may be we are a bit old fashioned and do not correlate the pros and cons of an early arranged marriage and the survival possibilities of these types of marriages. I am one of those who strongly believe that the man of your dreams, your Mr Right can pop up from anywhere and at any time. So you cannot turn down the proposal because it has come too soon. I gently kept my hand on Kala’s shoulder and said in a tender tone, “ My dear girl marriage is the ultimate dream of every woman, and marriage is the only right path to happiness, fulfillment and procreation in due course of time. It is seen as the sanctioned union between two sexes. It cannot be right to go through life alone.” I could read her mind which reflected utter confusion. “I don’t want to leave my home and you all, and go to a new place,”
I told her that when I got married, I was of her age, everything was new, but I found my happiness here. Then there are two more girls who are also growing up fast, so let us do our duty well in time. You are getting married to this boy and that’s final. He is the only son of a rich father, and will take good care of you, do not try to reject your destiny which has come with a ray of bright light.”
Then there was a long pause, probably I was fumbling for convincing words, and said ,“ the day you enter your new home, that will be the dawn of your new life, with a blank slate waiting for you to write words of beauty, may you do deeds of grace and have thoughts of joy This is all that a mother can wish her daughter and rest all will be governed by your fate.”
With these words I left the room, and made myself busy in other chores of the family. I knew how much work was to be done in arranging a marriage. I even called a couple of ladies from my mother’s place to extend a helping hand. In a very short span of time my daughter’s hesitation for marriage took an acute turn and she accepted the proposal with a positive frame of mind. Nitu, my second daughter was excited too. She started her preparations for the forthcoming celebrations. Looking forward to new clothes and plenty of celebrations . She was literally allured by the dances songs and functions which were to follow in this marriage. Was it Cupid’s arrow which had struck Kala? She seemed to have fallen madly in love with an unknown and unseen man of her dreams, who would give her everything in life , which is the ultimate goal in every woman’s life. May be it was infatuation, but her thoughts hovered around him day and night, and she started talking about him so frequently that at times I used to get bored, and dozed off to sleep. She used to go on talking till my soft snoring made her aware on my oblivion.
Suddenly I felt excruciating pain in my backbone and reckoned my daughter to change my posture, and put me in a reclined position. My pain killer dose was also due, she gave me some juice and my medicines. For a moment the agonizing pain had distracted me from my past, but suddenly memories of the past struck against my mind like the tumultuous waves of the ocean in high tide of the full moon. It drifted me into the mid ocean of past life, and I again got carried away by memory waves into my past.
Then started , all the preliminary preparations, for the forthcoming marriage. Lists of guests and gift items, jewelry, dresses were all enlisted. Guests started trickling in nearly a month prior to the marriage. After all it was the first marriage in the family. Every night there used to be dancing and folk songs in our court yard. Late nights followed by gift packing sessions.
Kala used to feel a peculiar tickling sensation when our friends used to tease her about the anonymous boy who would be her groom. S
Finally the big day arrived, everyone had been allotted particular duties to take care of the guests, and no lacuna left. All our relatives and friends had vacated one room in their house to be used as the guest room. One staff member per family was deputed to take care of their needs and their comforts. Kala was wondering why this V.I.P treatment is being extended to them. I explained to her that they were the boy’s parents and relatives, so due respect was their birth right.
How about you all; you are the girl’s parents, so they won’t respect you?” was her question darted at me. “No darling, when we visit their house, they will reciprocate with due respect.” I tried to convince her.
The whole courtyard was decorated with colorful flowers garlands and lights. Not even an inch of the freshly painted walls was visible. It was just garlands of roses and lily flowers, intermingled with colorful twinkling lights. The whole mansion appeared like a king’s palace. The center of the courtyard was left for the holy fire and all around it were mattresses covered with white sheets. This was the place allocated for all the members to sit and watch the ceremonies, and shower their blessings on the newlyweds.
A lady had been appointed to take care of the bride’s pedicure and manicure. The face and body massage with turmeric and Chandan powder, hair care and the aroma bath had all been taken care of. I am sure kala had never received so much importance in all her life, but she seemed to enjoy every bit of it. Finally I saw her reflection in the mirror, loaded with beautiful, exclusive jewelry. Emeralds, and diamonds, glittered on her. She was wearing a tomato red sari with heavy brocade gold embroidery on it. I had never seen her look so beautiful before. Her hands and feet were henna designed. Her forehead wore a small diamond bindi. Her arms were loaded with gold bangles nearly up to the elbows; anklets tingled in her slim dainty feet. I was stunned to see her beauty for the first time in my life. Her reflection in the mirror reminded me of my fairy tale story, and I murmured, “Mirror, oh mirror, who is the most beautiful lady on earth? Kala, Kala and only Kala,” was the soft reply with a smile on her face.
Finally a maroon veil covered her face and head, and she was to be escorted by her younger sister slowly to the fire place, where she squatted on the low cushion. The adjacent cushion was already occupied by the bridegroom. She sat with her head hung low down and did not dare to raise the head or eyes. This was considered as decency and etiquette for a bride to be. All these instructions had been hammered into her head for one month. My younger daughter should not look her best on that day, the reason being that the best looking should be the bride. Even this rule had to be observed. My prior instructions were issued and strictly followed. I tried my best to take a good glimpse of the groom, whom we had never met before, but his face was not visible. There were golden and silver tassels hanging from his turban which covered his face, only exposing his clean shaven chin which bore a dimple in the center; Her sister Nitu, felt the urge to go and whisper in her ear , “He is dark complexioned and short ”But she dared not do anything to annoy her.
The parents of the groom sat on his side and we, the girl’s parents, on her side, and the priest started chanting the mantras. Hours passed and the never ending ceremonies by the priest came to a halt. This was followed by the seven rounds around the sacred fire, and the showering of flowers by us. All were tired of watching the whole show and I could imagine how exhausted Kala must have been squatting with her head hung down. I am sure she must have dozed off for some time. How does it matter even if she did, no one must have observed it. It was like double Dutch for us, as most of the holy mantras passed over the head, and most of us even dozed off for some moments. I was not used to sleeping late, and so was Kala, and I am sure her neck and back was aching. All that guests wanted was to have a full sumptuous dinner, which they could smell from the adjoining hall. But in no way could anyone have their own desire fulfilled. So all of us sat there patiently, until all the ceremonies finished . It was past mid night, when the priest was done with all the rituals, and Kala was literally pulled up with a numb back and a torticollis neck. Then she was taken to her room where she just collapsed on her bed, and within seconds she started snoring.
My present back problem suddenly exacerbated and I started moaning with pain. My daughter came and gently massaged my back made me turn on the other side and kept some extra pillows for a comfortable support. I was given a few sips of juice and an air cushion kept for my bed sores, again I wandered in the past, because may be that journey was more pleasant than my present agony.
Finally my thoughts reached the time of departure of the bride. Everyone was hugging and kissing her turn by turn, as if she was going to a distant country. Some were showering their blessings for a happy married life, some giving last moment instructions of does and don’ts. I was sad but tense too. “How will she manage without us?” Next moment I realized that if I could manage, she will also learn to live her own life. Then we all bid her good bye and went to see her off in the bus.
There were 2 big buses waiting outside which were being loaded with all the gifts and cartons, and the dowry stuff. While all this was going on, it was punctuated by a loud and harsh voice of a lady, “Be careful, take care, don’t break it keep it gently. “I was not able to see her but I assumed her to be someone very strong and close to the family. Later on I discovered that she was the boy’s mother, who was more concerned about the materialistic things rather than her beloved daughter in law. I felt pity for Kala, who was herself so soft spoken and had never heard a harsh loud voice in all her life. Finally eyes brimming with tears, we waved good bye to our beloved daughter and stumbled back into the house.
My younger daughter appeared practically lost; she was like her shadow, laughing giggling, talking, fighting, and blaming one another when being scolded. I just did not know what she would do without her, so I quickly changed into my night dress and flung myself into my bed with pretense of a head ache and fell asleep due to exhaustion. I could hear Nitu’s sobs intermittently, but I let her cry till she went off to sleep.
We did not meet her for full eighteen months and seven days, because of certain reasons, and when we did meet, it was unbearable for me to see her. The beautiful bride who had hugged me hard, with great warmth, before boarding the bus, had been transformed into a frail weak sunken eyed lady who was looking at least eight years over her age. There was complete metamorphosis in her. Changed completely, giving her a haggard appearance, tension showing on her face. Her body leaden with fatigue didn’t have the energy to know what to feel and what to do. When she entered our house, her raven black hair was wrenched free of the neat French twist into which she habitually knotted it. Dust streaked on her dress; she not only looked exhausted but very depressed. Her husband and sister in law, were with her. Rup, her husband, was literally dragged in, with the support of two persons he had multiple bruises all over his body oozing with blood.
I knew there was something terribly wrong, but what was wrong was beyond my imagination. Many a times I had discussed with my husband and talked about her, but his expressions always spoke of tension, he did not leak out anything to me. On showing my desire to send someone to meet her, he had just brushed away the proposal saying, “no way, we cannot send anyone to go and stay in their house, it’s not in our family rule. Nandu our elder son had gone once and met her. She cannot come and meet you due to some crucial reasons.”
Now that we were together, I just ran to hug her lovingly and was dying to have an account of every moment of her life so far. If this was the outcome of marriage, I would certainly never think of getting my younger girl married at a tender age. Kala who was a happy go lucky, lively and a jovial person, and one who could grab life with both hands, had come back only after one and a half years in this condition. Certainly it was too high a price to be paid in the name of marriage
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