Dear Swami ji & Friends
This is the second chapter of Noir. You can read the first chapter here
“Congratulations Lata, you have made us proud again this year”, quipped PT sir awarding her with the gold medal. He had a bitter-sweet look in his eyes. Whilst he was proud of her student excelsior , there was only little he could do to help her milk the talent. A boy on the other hand could have been sent to competitions or to join the forces. But what should he do about this prodigal girl , the leprechaun gold he had come across with. He bit his lips and blamed Pipli.
Life in Pipli was strangely slow. Every time mankind took a step forward, India could manage to take at least half that step. But Pipli did not even give a damn. It yawned, laying down on the sagging charpoy of poverty, whose fragments kept breaking away one at a time. Having so tightly wrapped itself in the blanket of patriarchy, it choked on its own vomit. You could visit Pipli any time you felt like life was not going anywhere. You would be in the literal sense of what you mean to say.
The villagers were poor farmers. Whatever they grew, they kept half for themselves and sold the remaining inventory to the contractor who visits every few months. Hawkers rode on bicycles and sold rations from nearby town. The closest thing to literature you could find here were the stacks of old dusty newspapers they used to wrap the goods in. The children had the day to themselves. They ran around playing games and chasing ducks. Their favorite place was the makeshift see-saw made up of a chopped down papaya tree, pivoted on the broken hand pump, near the village well.
It was difficult for her to weigh down the other kids on the see-saw but what she lost in weight she made up in agility and speed. A call from baba(father) to help him with the jute bags on his bicycle after he came back home in the evening, and she would reach faster than her two elder brothers. Taking down the bags from the bicycle she would chirp about her day like a singing parrot. Baba lovingly called her Lata because she would always keep herself wrapped around him.
Under the strict supervision of her aai(mother) , she was being trained into the likes of being a good wife and an ideal daughter in law. It was an everyday struggle to wake up early dawn and start a fire in the kitchen. The damp coal created a havoc of smoke putting everyone out of their deep slumber. At an early age, she could cook, wash, clean, milk the cows and make the perfect cow dung cakes. Baba being a man of the world wanted her to be able to at least read and write. After a long hustle with the villagers instigated by aai, baba could adamantly send her to school along with her brothers, in district Chitpur.
The school was whole new world outside the village. She got to wear a uniform. She wrote on a slate and heard amazing stories. The only stories she had heard so far were from her mother about how she had become a bride at the age of thirteen and took care of everything in her new home. Her stories manifested to long boring sermons. In school, not only could the people speak in their stories but also also the animals and birds who would face a new challenge in the jungle every day. As years went by, the words she could earlier only speak, now she could even write. She loved literature but she could not fathom the intricacies of science.
She was in tenth standard now. Aai had made baba promise, tenth and no more. Oblivious to reality, Lata was excited too. She would be married soon and she would finally get to travel to the city. She would wear a beautiful saree and live in a beautiful home surrounded by a garden. She would cook and clean. Every day when her husband would arrive after work, they would sit on the motorbike and go to the market. But on Sundays, she wouldn’t do a thing. Sundays were for cinema. They would watch the movie in the theatre and eat outside at stalls afterwards. Life would be perfect as that of her other friends who had told her similar stories about the perks of a married life.
Lata mischievously smiled at PT Sir’s appreciation. She looked at her medal gleaming in the bright sunlight. Baba would be so happy that she had won again. She wore her medal all the way back from school and ran towards Baba sitting with others on the charpoy in the courtyard. But before she could reach him , aai grabbed her hand and shushed her inside. Baba had seen her running towards her with the medal hanging around her neck. He was tearful.
“Is this fine Gopal?”, asked Pandit ji
“She is very smart and talented Pandit ji”, replied Baba
“She is also very dark skinned unlike our son. We are doing you a favor here. “, jabbed back Pandit ji
“I don’t have so much money”, Baba went silent.
“We will borrow.” Aai was quick to reply back, offering them home-made ladoos.
Pandit ji smiled.