(This is a translation of the story 'Naseehaton ka Daftar' by Munshi Premchand)
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If a woman is beautiful, it becomes the duty of other women to be jealous of her. My dear, God forbid I wish no one should possess such a harmful nature; but it is beyond human jurisdiction to stop others from being jealous. I fear that your Divine beauty will burn others to ashes. Dear Hemu, I am hurt that you have accepted the invitation without my consent. I am sure if you had known that I won’t like it, you would never have done so.
Hemvati carefully listened to her husband’s arguments laced with love and flattery. Purposely faking innocence, she said, ‘I accepted the invitation because I already had all the clothes for the role, thus not money was required; only a few hours of inconvenience and they would have felt obliged. It’s not good to displease the doctors, isn’t it! But now I won’t go. I shall write to them about my inability to perform. Really, what’s the use? Unnecessary trouble!'
Akshay Kumar felt relieved as he heard that this time not much money would be spent as the clothes were already available. Moreover, Hemvati’s advice that it’s not a good idea to displease the doctors, had a strong effect on him.
Babu Sahab repented; if only he had known earlier, why would he have taken the pains to become the rough preacher? Shaking his head, he said, ‘No, my dear, I did not intend to say that you shouldn’t go. When you have already accepted the invitation, then it is very rude and unkind to deny it now. I only meant to say that, as much as possible, one should try to stay away from such functions.
But Hemvati maintained her decision firmly- ‘I won’t go now. I have tied your words in a knot (acts as if tying a knot). My decision won’t change now.’
Next evening, Akshay Kumar went out for a walk in Anand Bagh which was at the best of its youth and charm at that time. The beautiful red path among the rows of tall Ashoka and Deodar trees looked like a lotus blooming between the green leaves; as the beautiful eyes of a woman shining from under the enchanting eyelashes!
Babu Akshay Kumar sat on his favourite place, under the shade of the trees, enjoying the mild breeze. The few moments that he used to spend in the garden had an amazing effect on his mind.
His heart bloomed like a flower. Just after a short while, he saw an old man approaching him. He greeted Akshay Babu and handed a sealed envelope to him, vanishing away soon after. Akshay Babu opened the envelope and was mesmerized by its fragrance. The letter said-
‘My dear Akshay Babu, you shall be surprised to read this letter, but I hope that you will forgive me for this act. Having heard a lot of appreciation about your good behavior, your interests and your lifestyle, I could not stop myself from loving and respecting you. I am attracted to your simple lifestyle. If I had not been held back by social and personal boundaries, I would have expressed myself even more explicitly.
It’s been a year since I had compromised with my situation and after having experienced the weaknesses of men, I was so much disappointed that I had decided to spend the rest of my life in dreaming about happiness. I searched a lot but could not find the man I was looking for. But ever since I saw you….my dormant fantasies have suddenly become alive. Your face may not have the grace of beauty, but you have the glint of imagination, which I honour more than the physical beauty.
Although I feel that if you had been more conscious of your physical beauty as well, I might have been more pleased. Physical appearance, for me, isn’t of much importance though. I always wished for a truthful, simple man who possessed a golden heart…and I have found one.
As a clever diver, I, too, have found the rarest pearl from the ocean bed. I request you to kindly visit Dr Kachlu’s house tomorrow night. I shall be highly grateful to you. There, among the Ashoka trees, you shall find a woman in green sari waiting for you.’
Akshay Kumar read the letter again. It is needless to explain how the letter affected his heart and mind. He was not a saint, although in such a delicate situation, it is not impossible even for the saints to deviate from their paths. He felt intoxicated.
‘This angel must have definitely seen me sitting here some time. I have not even looked at my face in the mirror for so many days. God knows what’s the condition of my face!’
Feeling uneasy with such thoughts, he ran towards a small water body nearby to have a look at his face in clear water, but he wasn’t satisfied. He rushed towards his home and as soon as he entered, he went straight to the mirror. He wasn’t happy with the untidily shaven beard and the not-so-beautifully tied turban. ‘But, even then nobody can call me ugly. She must be some highly educated, open minded woman. Otherwise common women always fall for wealth and physical appearance only.
My untidy look cannot be appreciated by her. I shall have to take care of myself from now on. I feel lucky today! After a long time, I have finally found a person who recognizes my real worth. Indian women are generally very shy. Unless they are forced by the upheavals of emotions in their hearts, they can never find courage to write such a letter.’
Babu Akshay Kumar spent a sleepless night, lost in her thoughts.
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