Shiv Hari ... yes, he was named Shiv Hari Prasad. As he progressed in his studies, his hatred towards his name increased. It is said ‘you want to progress in life you should have friends and if you want to go really high in life you ought to have enemies’. So our Shiv Hari Prasad hated his name so much that he promptly dropped 'H' from his name and thought himself to be in keeping with the ‘modern’ times.
After his post-graduation he went on to do his Law, a rare feat in his society of Aligarh. He became a Labour Officer and rose to become Regional Commissioner. Elder brother of Sattu, he reared a family and is settled in Delhi after his retirement.
This does not make a story of life. Why story... it does not make a life. Life is not all that simple. It does not travel in a straight path and each one of us has to negotiate life’s twists and turns, not always visible to the navigator or to the onlookers. As was the custom those days, he was married young, very young to a semi-literate village belle. She was too young to know what marriage or, for that matter love is all about. She was very fair stout, laborious and a home maker. Shiv Hari did not like her at all. He would avoid her, ignore her. In short, he found her company repulsive. Forget love, in fact he hated her. For poor Shaku was a simpleton, did not know that at times a wife is required to act temptress to her own husband. It was too much to expect that she would know how to go about it. Poor Shaku thought that taking extremely good care of her in-laws was about all it takes a marriage to be successful. She was naïve to believe that one day things will improve and her husband would be ‘moved’ by the nursing and care she did to his parents while he was busy chasing his dreams.
Shiv Hari was the first and only MA, LL.B in his family. He was blessed with stunning film-star looks. He knew it. It was a heady cocktail, remote resemblance with any cine-star of the day mixed with secret celluloid dream. He ran away from home. Yes... you guessed it right: to Bombay. As a proof of his brush with filmdom, he would show us kids, his one photograph with playback singer, Mahendra Kapoor. FTII, Pune, had just been established. He was promptly advised by one and all to go and learn and polish his acting skills, if any, in FTII. This was a gentle way or, rather, their way to say “get lost”. The bigger question emerged, who will pay his fees and other expenditure for years together? To nurture a desire of becoming film actor was considered an “evil” and was a strict taboo; at least, in a town like Aligarh of 1960s. Our hero returned. Empty handed plus heavy heart. The first thing he did was to pack his wife to her parents’ place for ever, instructing her in no uncertain words never to return. He did not listen to his parents or his well-wishers. When it comes to matrimonial complications, which would normally require apt handling with utmost care, people strangely choose to look the other way. Friends, folks and father would think it is “personal” and things would get sorted out on their own. Nothing gets sorted out on its own.
A poet at one place says:
Mein chup raha to galatfehmiyan aur badi
Usne wo bhi suna.... jo maine kaha nahin
(My maintaining silence further aggravated the misunderstandings,
she heard things... that I never uttered).
Sir Isaac Newton also said while propounding his famous laws of motion “... a thing will continue to be in a state of rest...”
It was tragic. Shaku represented the entire womanhood of small towns, who get tied from one slavery to other. She suffered silently. She hid her tears but, in times to come, her estranged hubby, Shiv Hari, had to account for each teardrop. Indeed, he had to pay dearly.
Few years later, he again got married. It was inter-caste marriage: a kind of a ‘love at first sight’ or so he thought. She was articulate, extremely beautiful, graduate girl of Delhi. She could communicate with Shiv Hari in good English. Shiv Hari mistook her to be highly forward-looking like many others do it till today due to their erroneous perception that one’s ability to communicate in English indicates one’s intelligence. Intelligent, she was, but differently and in different field. Shaku’s sighs did not go waste. The new bride made Shiv Hari’s life a living hell. She took up job at stations other than where Shiv Hari was posted, completely neglecting her household. In times to come Shiv Hari became father of three children. None could achieve anything worthwhile in life. They failed to make any mark in the society. Shiv Hari seldom spoke about them. Daughter was married off to a much older person abroad. Sons last heard were not doing anything and were burden on their parents’ fast depleting retirement funds. School dropouts, they were modern and highly fashionable do nothings. Though well in their thirties, they were still a liability upon their parents.
Commissioner could not do much to keep his family intact. Sons took to heavy drinking. Retired Shiv Hari and his wife last heard were busy doing paper work to join their daughter abroad. House, in which Sattu once resided as RC, no, not Resident Commissioner but Resident Caretaker, came to be sold off. Shiv Hari was forced to move into a humbler abode and oblivion further down town.
PS: Shaku was remarried to a wealthy widower whose wife had died in her first child birth. The infant was in dire need of maternal care. He was a big time farmer owning acres and acres of land and a large herd of cows and other farm animals. She lived happily ever after. The ones who have seen both swear till date Shaku was any day far more beautiful person than the wife Shiv Hari acquired to his ruin.