5 years later….
Jamna was on cloud 9 that day. Her Bhikhu came first in the school in the matriculate examination. Bhikhu was now a young boy with a ready smile. He was still a wiry thin boy but the mustache that he had grown gave him the looks of an imposing personality.
He was still not very good at conversation, unable to impress others with arguments. To Jamna his distinction marks in Science and Mathematics did not mean much.
“To be a good solicitor like my Dayalbhai he has to be good at conversation.” She reasoned
“What is the use of science and mathematics if one cannot put forward an argument to score a point?”
She had worked hard tilling the little piece of land with the help of some labourers acquainted with Morar. The land produced rice that barely allowed her to go on with the expenses. She had no savings to send Bhikhu to College at Navsari. All the big boys of rich farmers of Sarbhon studied at a famous college at Navsari.
“I am not going to pray to Thakorji for ensuring Bhikhu’s college education. “ the eternal fighter Jamna would not even beg the Gods for favours. “Work hard and the results would follow” she would advise anyone who had ears. God was there for your peace of mind not for seeking favours.
The shameless Nathukaka had mellowed with passing years but would occasionally hint at paying for the college education of her Bhikhu.
“He is a man of bad character, stay away from him” Poor Bhikhu had no idea about the designs of Nathukaka. He continued to respect him to the annoyance of Jamna.
That day the special postman brought a telegram for her. The sight of the postman with the telegram sent shivers down the spine of local villagers.
Bhikhu read the telegram with whatever his halting English would permit.
It was from her solicitor brother Dayalji from Mumbai breaking the news of the untimely death of his second son Ranjit. The first one Amrat was at least 9 years senior to Ranjit.
“Oh my God. What could have consumed the life of that poor little boy Ranjit? “ She started weeping.
Bhikhu wore a puzzled look. He had played with Ranjit when Motamama’s family spent a few days last summer.
“We must go and console Motamama” opined Bhikhu like a young man who had suddenly grown up to take important decisions.
Jamna was aghast and confused. Yes, she too wanted to go and console her brother but traveling all the way to a strange city was too intimidating. Could she trust Bhikhu now?
Dayalji lived in a spacious mansion at Malabar Hills where rich people lived. Jamna liked her Bhabhi who happened to be a distant cousin of Morar. Such closeness between sisters in law was an exception.
“We must go but Bhikhu, would you know how to travel that far to the megacity called Bombay?”
“Yes, Maa I think I know. But do you have the money? Shall we ask Nathukaka?”
“No, never. Don’t ever think of that.” Jamna scolded the poor boy.
The postman who was watching the mother-son duo debate suddenly came to their rescue.
“My cousin is traveling to Bombay tomorrow and he can help you reach Dayalji’s mansion
So the problem of finding someone familiar with the city was sorted out.
“Thank you bhai. May Thaokorji shower his blessings on you”
After the postman left Jamna went inside a dark room, opened an old metal bag with the key that she wore around her waist and brought out Rupees fifty-four that she had saved for some occasion.
“Here, Bhikhu, common, start the preparations for our travel to Bombay with this cousin of the postman.”
The whole village of Sarbhon was agog with amusement and excitement that a widow like Jamna dares to visit Bombay to console her brother.
“Wow, no one has taken such a bold step ever in Sarbhon. She is truly ‘azaad’ (Independent- not caring about what others think about her or her actions)”
“Arey Jamna, take some food and water along”
“Hey, I know all that. Stop advising me” Jamna would retort.
Bhikhu packed a little cotton bag with his stuff that included the report card of matriculate exam – he was so proud of that. Jamna quickly got down to repair the shirt that Bhikhu would wear on way to Bombay. “He should look like a matriculate and the nephew of the great Solicitor Dayalji” Her pride had no limits.
She had arranged for her old friend Kashi to come and stay in the house during their sojourn away. Nobody keeps the house locked in the village and besides, she will have to milk the buffalo every day.
Kashi too was a widow and lived with her married son and daughter-in-law. As usual, it created endless tensions between her and her daughter-in-law in the house. “At least she will get some respite from the tension” Jamna reasoned.
The village pundit was called the next morning to chant some mantras to ensure a safe journey. Jamna gave a generous packet of rice and some fruits to the pundit in return.
“Kashi, make yourself comfortable – it is your own house, understand? Don’t forget to milk the buffalo and lock the door at night securely.” Jamna ordered like a matron would. Everyone in the village was used to such orders from Jamna – the ‘azad’ woman of Sarbhon. Nothing would upset her to disturb her sense of composure. Some men would even try to shield their women folks from such azad woman.
After all, God has made women differently for their role in raising the family. Men are meant to order and women to follow, Period.
Next day Jamna and her boy were ready to board the state transport bus sharp at 11 AM to transport them to the Navsari railway station to board the ‘local’ train – ‘we can’t afford the rail fare of the fast train, Bhikhu’
…to be continued