Literary Shelf

Tears - Part 1

This is a translation of the Punjabi story ‘Athru’ which is one of the thirteen stories in the book ‘Kaame’written by Balraj Sahni

I had gone to Calcutta to work in a Bengali movie. I reached yesterday. It becomes very difficult to work if one doesn’t know the language of the place. I was very tired. I could not get up from my bed since morning due to fatigue.

As I sipped my tea, I picked up the newspaper. The servant came and said, “There is a boy standing outside who has come to meet you. It seems he will be asking for money.” I told him, “Make some excuse and let him go.”

I wasn’t even completely ready when the visitors started pouring in, and this is exactly what annoys the wives of the film stars. First a producer came. He wasted my half an hour. When I used to roam about penniless on the streets of Bombay, he never appreciated my acting skills nor did he care about the fact that we were college time friends. But now, he expects that I will definitely agree to work for free for the first seven days in his movie. By that time he will set up his business with the distributors, and then later on he will make my full payment during the making of the movie.

After a short while, another visitor arrived. Today being Sunday, he had come for a picnic along with his family. He needed a knife which he would return after the picnic. But he took atleast half an hour in bidding goodbye after taking the knife.

I was free by eleven. I closed the door and instructed the servant to make an excuse that I wasn’t at home if anyone else happens to visit.

Suddenly I looked outside my window. In the porch, two tear-filled eyes were staring at me.

I assumed that he was the same boy about whom the servant had told me in the morning. He had been sitting there for three hours! Must be really very stubborn! Some people even keep guard whole night. They do not go away. Somebody’s purse has been stolen, someone’s mother is ill, some need money to go back home. It is not possible to know who is telling the truth and who is a liar. Only those film stars can sit back and relax, who have appointed gatekeepers at their gates, or who have kept ferocious dogs to scare away the passersby.

But the boy had seen me. Now there was no way to avoid him. I opened the door and went near him. He was a young, fair-looking boy seventeen or eighteen years old. He spoke with folded hands:

“I wanted to talk to you, Bhapa ji.”

The rustic village tone! My heart was immediately softened, but I stopped myself and said sternly, “See, I am unable to help you monetarily at this moment.”

“I did not come to ask for money, Bhapa ji. I sing Bhajans in the temple at Kolivada Camp and the priest is good enough to give me food twice a day.”

“If you don’t need money, then what do you want?”

“Please help me get some work somewhere, Bhapa ji….” And then again his eyes swelled up with tears….. “I used to sell fountain pens. But my pocket was picked. Someone stole sixty rupees from my pocket.”

It seemed to me as if the pockets of the poor people were picked more as compared to those of the rich people.

“Then what can I do?” I said, “Every day four to five people come to me whose pockets have been picked. How can I help everyone? You have no idea, how many people visit me everyday…..Okay, just wait….”

I asked him to wait and went inside. His rustic village tone had already touched my heart. I thought of giving him twenty rupees. He could start his fountain pens business again. I had to help him somehow. He sings Bhajans at Kolivada Camp. The novelist Nanak Singh has written in his autobiography ‘Meri Duniya’ that he was also fond of singing in the Guru Mandir in his childhood. Nanak Singh was ‘Hansraj’ then. I, too, used to sing Bhajans in the Arya Samaj. Just like Hansraj and Balraj, this boy also belongs to some village near Peshawar. I don’t even know what his name is!

I must visit Kolivada Camp and see for myself. Several people from the villages of Peshawar must have taken refuge there. There must be a common society of the Punjabis in Bombay, that would help those Punjabis who have been affected by the communal riots during the partition. The Sindhis have made such wonderful societies…..

The other day, I received a letter from a Sindhi boy from the T.B. Sanatorium at Jaipur. He had written: ‘Because of my illness, there is no one left who could earn and take care of my mother. Till I am engrossed with such worries, how can medicines benefit me?’ I sent that boy’s letter to Mr. Advani, the Principal of a Sindhi College at Bombay. He sent the addresses of three Sindhi societies to me and these societies immediately enquired about the boy and promised to help him as much as possible. Punjabis have not made any such societies in Bombay. People make Arya Samaj Mandirs, Sanatam Dharma Mandirs or Gurudwaras. Then they start fighting among themselves. Why don’t we make an effort to change this malpractice? I will certainly raise this issue in the next meeting of the Punjabi Sahitya Sabha….

Continued to Next Page 


More by :  Dr. Giti Tyagi

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