I got this handkerchief three years ago.I kiss it delicately,as if it won't be able to bear even a little bit of roughness and if I treated it roughly,won't be able to hold itself together.A long lost sacred fragrance started twitching in my blood again.
It wa a moment of departure.A Maruti car decorated wid flowers was standing behind the bus,hired for a marriage party.Ahead a crowd of ladies,crying n shedding tears.Shuchi was woalking towards the car,her head hung low.She was walking in the footsteps of her bridegroom.The bridegroom was holding her "pallu',tied in a knot n thrown over his right shoulder.The other end was tied to the border of Shuchi's dupatta
Shuchi was pulled along by this knot.I was standing, hiding my face,at the other end, alongwith Shuchi's Ji Sa(father).Just at that moment,amall girl came running and said,"Do you have a handkerchief? Didi needs it for wiping her tears.
Within a flash,I took out my milky white handkerchief n handed it over to her.Then,I beheld Shuchi,gently touching hankie to her eyes.She was least concious of the fact that her face would forever be embossed in the hankie for me.Before she alighted the car,the same youngster came running and handed the kerchief back to me
.I hastily folded it and slipped into my pocket.It is still lying with me since,unwashed, and still glowing,smudged with tears and inked with 'kajal' and the first vermilion applied on Shuchi's forehead.
Who is Shuchi to me?There is a small story need to be mentioned.My family and I arrived in the town,in which Shuchi was born and brought up,some years ago.As is customary in small towns,very soon, we made our acquaintance with her father.By and by, we got to know the entire family.Our families grew close.There was a considerable age gap, between Shuchi;s father and me.He was tghe father of a grown up daughter like Shuchi,while my only son was not yet of school going age.Although, each and every member of that family,showered tremenduous affection on my family,yet Shichi's affection for my son knew no bounds.She used to say,''He is absolutely like you."
Shuchi was very soft spoken.Was that the secret of her beauty? I thought about this a lot.She used to wear a very little make-up, but it was always so perfect that the beauty of any other glamorous woman in a gathering would pale before her serene, simple charm.She hardly talked to me.It was limited to exchanging greetings or little querries.Of course, she chatted a lot with my son.Thus, we stayed for many years.Years later,after we had settled down in Calcutta,the invitation arrived.
From a practical point of view,my wife did not deem it fit to travel so far, to attend the wedding.In her opinion,sending a nice wedding gift would suffice..But, i had to attend Shuchi's wedding.Other than close family ties,the reasons why i had to attend the wedding was purely personal.Though, the reasons were insignificant, almost unaccounted for.
Actually, both the families had very good relations.Nothing was hidden from anyone.There was only one single incident that Shuchi and I had kept secret from the others and it still remains one, till this day.Such incidents don't happen just like that,and at the time, i had nrver expected it.I remember in the beginning,when such a longing ,arose in me, I lulled it.Then, all of a sudden, one day, Shuchi knocked at my door.
I was alone at home those days.I was preparing for some employment examination..Shucji's Ji Sa insisted that,I shift to his home.He insisted that I should stay with them n study till my wife returned.I used to get up at 3a.m.to study in those days.But God knows what change came over me and I started sleeping so soundly that even the sound of amn alarm clock couldn't wake me up.Ultimately, it was decided that Shuchi would keep the alarm clock with her and would come to wake me up every morning.This worked perfectly.Shuchi herself would come n call out,"Get up, uncle, it is time to study."
Upon hearing Shuchi's voice,I would wake up.After serving me tea, she would go back to sleep.I never noticed that she didn't ever touch me until, i received that chit of paper from her one morning.It was just a small note.But, it was like a wake up call.The letter shuchi had written on a piece of white paper and folded into four.i found it in the pocket of my kurta.Shuchi had asked,"Can I wake you up by touching you?'
"Yes,"I added my reply to her letter and handed it back to her.
The incident happened in the morning.The same evening, my better half returned.i shifted back to my house.After that,I never got a chance of staying at Shuchi's place.When I moved to Calcutta,negotiations for Shuchi's marriage were on.I got this invitation in Calcutta n came to attend the wedding.Smearing my handkerchief with her kaajal-stained tears and the maiden vermilion from her forehead,she alighted the car.Three years have elapsed.I have no letter from her.No news is good news.I think,she must be well settled now.
This is a Rajasthani story orignally written by Sh.Malchand Tiwari n translated into English by myself..Rajni Chhabra.