Vishwa Jyoti Dheer
The crematorium of a big city. Smoky pyres were burning on many platforms. Scream, moan, moan. I had heard that such scary sounds come in hells. Somewhere flames rise, somewhere souls suffer in the fire. Screaming and shouting. Is this a scene from hell? But today I was not screaming. Why do I feel relaxed? Where has the pain of my wounds gone today? Due to cylinder explosion, my half burnt body has been suffering on the bed for the last two months. When the worms inside the wounds writhed, I felt as if vultures were tearing at my flesh. Painful moans could be heard till the third house and Satish would also start crying along with me. But today I am not feeling any pain. Then why is Satish crying unnecessarily? Is he clinging to his mother and crying like a child? Mother is also being beaten with two hammers, ‘Sir, please wake up and look… we are ruined. My son’s house was destroyed. Sheel, your children have become motherless today. Why is mother crying my name? Why are you calling me? I had barely any relief, after months of pain.
A deep sleep. Did I dream? These screams and moans woke me up. All of them are crying for me. where am i? I am looking at my own body. It still smells rotten, but I am relieved of the pain. No, I can’t die so soon. I have small children. Satish! Satish! Look, your modesty is in front of you. I didn’t go anywhere. I had fallen asleep. For a few moments. Got relief from pain. That’s it, I felt relieved and I probably fell asleep. Satish is not seeing or hearing me. Big crowd of old people. Women’s faces covered with white dupattas. Women blabbering. They are beating their chests for me lying dead. Where did the pieces of my liver go in this crowd? I felt agony. Ran into the crowd. Courage, my elder son. He is crying loudly on his father’s shoulder. Rose flower in hand. The same flower which he had plucked from the garden yesterday evening. Today his fifth class result was to come. He had said, ‘Mama, I will pass, so I have to give this rose to my madam.’ I was angry. ‘Courage, don’t pluck flowers. These look beautiful on the branch. Now it will wither quickly.
‘Mummy, I can’t put it back together?’ Himmat had asked me innocently.
‘No son, once a flower gets separated from the branch, it never gets attached again.’
The flower fell from Himmat’s hand. The rose flower was crushed under its feet by the crowd of the world. My younger son – Navdeep. Navi… where are you? My soul is yearning. I am searching here and there for my four year old Navi. He stands looking at the bier decorated with balloons and flags. Perhaps this would be the bier of a person who lived his entire life. Navi is clapping after hearing the instruments playing along with the bier. He doesn’t know about the havoc of separation from his mother. I became close to him. Navi picked up the nail thrown from the bier and put it in her mouth. Navi son, you must be hungry. Ninth, are you listening to Mama? not listening. Not looking. Looks like he is hungry. Satish took him in his lap. I walked along with Satish. Her tear-filled eyes and disheveled hair. Like a fakir. Helpless, helpless. I can’t bear it. Satish! Satish! Listen to me. You took care of me, to kill the rotten smell of the streets. You never felt disgusted. Then why didn’t God heal me after seeing your service? Why didn’t I get a chance to be with my children more? My children, dear ones of their dead mother, will ask you. Where has Mama gone? What will you answer? Satish was not aware of the pain of this soul. What will he say to the children? Maybe at night someone will show me a star in the sky – look, Mama has become a star. Hey, who is this rolling on the earth and screaming? My little sister. She lived in the same city as me but never came near my stinking body full of worms. Came one day. Vomited by placing a handkerchief on his nose. She did not come again and today she is crying and screaming the most. Elder sister on the other side. She hugs whoever she meets and starts wailing. She is not crying, she is doing this seeing the opportunity. She often told me that one should look for opportunities in good and bad times. She was at leisure in her household. Satish also requested his elder sister to spend a few days at our place also. The children are small. But my sister doesn’t have time. No time for satsangs, pilgrimages and temples. He also smelled like me. My mother’s blood was white. But my children never smelled like me. They also lived around me. My brother and sister-in-law are also standing in a corner. They are crying loudly. Sister-in-law is not doing business. She is shedding a sea of tears holding her courage close to her chest. I know, he is not one to take chances just for the sake of social posturing. If anyone had come to inquire about my well-being, it was my brave man, who had burst into tears after seeing my condition. Whenever he came, he would arrange for medicines. Would encourage Satish. Would call every day. Helped Satish even with money. But I know that their tears have no value compared to false lamentations. My brother definitely valued my relationship. Many women used to cry remembering their dead people. No one hugged frightened children like my cats. These relations are now silent due to crying and are entangled in worldly matters. I run to everyone. Maybe someone will see, hear, feel me. Elder aunt caught hold of one of Janani’s chunni and said, ‘Re sister, this lace is very beautifully worn. Where did you get it from? Send me along too. I will wear it with a white scarf. It feels good to wear a scarf around the neck at some good or bad place. My neighbors and my relatives have also started making plans for Satish’s second marriage. Will bring another mother for my Himmat and Navi.
My body has been laid on the wood. My soul trembled. Wait! Stop! I make noise. Who will stay? Time never stops. I stayed there and went. My path has ended. My son Himmat was put forward to light the pyre. He is crying loudly, ‘Papa… don’t set mummy on fire… mummy will be in pain. I will not set mom on fire.
‘Son, this is a ritual.’ The elder sister had to show wisdom, she asked Himmat to step forward and set fire to the fire. The pyre has been lit. Himmat kept shedding tears. Flames started rising from above. Sparks are rising, fly in the air, then extinguish and fall on the earth as ashes. Everyone has turned their back on my burning pyre. What are these people? All are wonders. They are real dead people. On the go. But without feeling….
Women washed their eyes with cold water. Each one plucked a straw from the womb of the earth. Then it was cut into two pieces and thrown behind the head. With your back towards me. Didn’t look back again. He did not break the straw, he broke the relationship with the dead modesty. These broken straws pierced my soul. Like shards of glass. Wounded my soul. People have gone out of the crematorium. Changed in a moment. His words also changed. How carefree is life and how full of agony is unexpected death. Satish and children are still watching my burning pyre. Satish held Himmat’s finger. Brother lifted Navi in his lap. They also started walking. away from me. I am suffering. I want to go along, but I am stuck. Can’t run away. Where will I go now? I don’t want to join the crowd of stars. I will cry right here. I will keep wandering here. But for how long? Till when? Perhaps I will suffer until my sons become capable of flying out of the nest. As long as they sleep half-naked, half-hungry, I will keep crying.
Translation: Subhash Nirav