4. The Visit
On the Sunday, Ramdei had occupied the kitchen since morning. Raju had requested her to give special attention to the dishes she was preparing for the guests. Raju busied himself with cleaning the best room of the house. This room was to be used as drawing room. For our Harilal, his buffaloes and cows were his pride. Therefore, he devoted himself into bathing his cattle-wealth. Raju groaned upon seeing that.
The guests arrived at 12 O’clock. The little band included Raghuraj Singh, Rajaram, and Kusum’s younger brother Mohan. Harilal welcomed them at the gate and walked them to the designated drawing-room through freshly bathed buffaloes and cows. Buffaloes and cows welcomed them by wiggling their tails. Mohan, though, believed they were only trying to get rid of flies.
Raghuraj Singh looked at everything keenly. The ancient walls were painted a decade ago, he guessed. But in reality, houses was painted only 6 years ago. Old walls found it hard to keep the coat of paint attached. There were a couple of cots and a chaowki in the room on the name of furniture. Although room was clean, smell of the cattle tied outside could be felt in the room.
Then began the chatting. Harilal and Raghuraj Singh discovered that there were very few topics that could interest both of them. Talkative Rajaram managed to keep the discussion alive somehow. Mohan rarely uttered a word. Meanwhile various types of dishes and chai with too much milk were served.
After some time, Raju entered the room. Raghuraj and Mohan fixed their gazes upon him. Raju asked several questions. Raju answered nervously. Raghuraj was not impressed to learn that Raju had no career plans.
After a couple of hours, the guests took the leave. Kusum was already not interested in this match. Mohan’s account on the visit made her decision firm.
Next day Rajaram passed the rejection news to Harilal in the nicest words possible.
Raju’s rage rained in the house of Harilal that evening. “For the first time an educated man walked under the roof of this house. And completely rejected us. Why don’t you realise that the world has changed, and your rural village life is no more acceptable in the educated society.”
Those words pierced Harilal’s heart. He did not say a word. Not only that day, but for many days. Raju felt ashamed later but remained upset. Ramdei took side of her son. But nothing was changed. Harmony and peace vanished from the house and didn’t return until very long.
5. The Engineer
Meanwhile, Rajaram presented a new match to Vimala. The man was a computer engineer in Delhi. Kusum liked the description very much. He was coming home in Holi holidays. The Sunday after Holi was decided for the meeting. The engineer wanted to meet Vimla. Vishvanath Temple of Banaras Hindu University was selected as the venue for the event. Kusum did not want to miss this match. She took Vimla to beauty parlour regularly. New dresses and jewelleries were purchased. By the time of the meeting arrived, Vimla definitely looked much different. Kusum was full of confidence.
The long awaited day arrived. Raghuraj Singh, Kusum, Vimala, Mohan, Mohan’s wife, and Rajaram arrived at the temple much before the due time. Mohan selected a suitable spot in the park of the temple. Raghuraj Singh went out to arrange some snacks and drinks. Kusum and Mohan’s wife made sure Vimala’s dress and make-up were in order.
30 minutes after the due time, the band of to-be-groom’s side appeared at gate of the park. Upon indication of Rajaram, Raghuraj strode towards them to welcome. He was shocked to see the size of the band. There were at least 10 adults and 4-5 children. Parents, older brother and his wife, two younger sisters, two uncles and two aunts accompanied the to-be-groom. Account on the children was also given but Raghuraj Singh couldn’t remember it even for few seconds. Someone in the band said they thought it would be nice idea to see the girl and also make a holy visit to the temple. Raghuraj Singh said inside his mind that it was not a nice idea. He ran Mohan to fetch more snacks and drinks when no one was looking.
Vimala and Kusum were nervous seeing the crowd of people donned with costly outfits and speaking flawless modern Hindi, with English words here and there. And more than a dozen pairs of eyes were fixed on Vimala. She couldn’t even raise her eyes out of nervousness and shyness. Her self-confidence had gone astray.
Questions after questions were being sprayed over her and she felt very ashamed of her village accented Hindi. She answered in very mild voice. The to-be-groom felt pity for the girl. He saw only one way to rescue her from his relatives.
“Excuse me!” he said loudly, “I want to talk to the miss in alone.”
Soon they were walking in the other part of the park safely far from the wild crowd. The engineer tried to strike a conversation with Vimala but she offered only brief answers to what he asked. After some time, the man suggested her to take one of the park benches. She sat silently. The man sat beside her and said with a mix of Hindi and English, “You know.. You are very nice girl. But you are not the type I want. Someone frank and accustomed to city lifestyle would suit me better. I am sure, you will find a more suitable man. I did not want to come, but had to come because of family pressure.”
The words that just fell on her ears, travelled through mind and heart hurting them both. She refused to say and word, stood up, and walked away.