Few days ago, my friend Lieutenant Commoder (retd) Trilochan Singh phoned me, “Professor Sahib, weather has turned romantic. I yearn to see the “beautiful birds” of Chandigarh. Will you oblige me by accompanying me to the Sukhna Lake?”

“Anything for you, officer”. said I.

“Right, I would see you at 5.30 pm” replied the jovial naval officer.

For about an hour, we enjoyed the salubrious environs at the lake.

While the Commoder primarily clapped eyes on “chicks”, I amazingly watched the azure sky, wondrous blue Kasauli mountains in the backdrop.

While on our way back home, Trilochan suddenly stopped his car near a roadside tea kiosk.
” Professor sahib, let’s have some refreshing tea”.

I ordered two cups of tea and requested the tea seller – a young Bihari woman of about 25 years old, wearing vermilion and a mangalsutra ( an ornament worn by married women in India ) – to make strong tea but with less sugar.

“I think I have seen you somewhere. Have you ever sold bananas near Government College – 46 with your husband” I asked the tea seller.

“Yes sahibji. With the death of my husband, I have now taken to tea selling” she answered with heavy heart.

“Oh! Very sorry for that. But you are wearing vermilion and mangalsutra. Have you remarried?” I asked.

“No sahibji. I have not remarried.
Sahibji, there is no dearth of barbarians, ever ready to savour poor, young widows.
To ward off attacks by “wild animals”, I dress myself as a happily married woman” she replied.

During my lifetime, I have seen many Jekyll and Hydes, wearing masks of various hues to bamboozle others.

That day, however, I saw a helpless widow concealing behind vermilion and mangalsutra so as to fend for herself and her two children, honorably.

~ Sanjay Gargish ~

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Sanjeev Gargish

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