Jignesh Jani
Translation : Harish Mahuvakar

The sun set down and the dim shadows of darkness began to turn into darker ones. The village that lay on the salty land of Bhal too was covered under those black dark shadows. The village was disrepute as the Dusty one rather than its original name. To the east of the village was creek of the Arabian Sea and to the west were a few little green farms.
The farms earlier grew wheat only but since a decade last the Narmada water has reached the land. All time desolate land turned into greener farms. Some of the land was specially kept for the cows. With the change in the land, the shades and huts too changed. To the North a factory was set up and the salt pans stretched up to Bhavnagar. With that stretched up the village markets. Now each home had water taps but the supply thin. In the past light was often brightened the sky but was momentary. Now it is put in the village houses. The floors were soiled but now they have vitrified tiles. Trees decrease and towers increased. On seeing its dusty roads you are confused to call this place as a village or a town? Such a question had possessed Dana Bhagat while he was swaying on the swing. He was searching his old village that had hidden somewhere in this very village.
His cataract operated eyes were set on a preying lizard at the corner of a pillar. The lizard moved steadily and so was the prey finding way to escape. Ultimately the hunter’s tongue lengthened and the prey disappeared. He thought, ‘Either’s gone or caught.’ And he sighed heavily. The air came out from his long nostrils that looked like a long pistol head. With that he heard the troubled and known sound.
‘I say, do you listen to? Why don’t you respond? Aren’t you well?’ Rama Ma sitting under CFL lamp white light, and moving beads in the prayer asked him.
He turned his eyes away from the creature. He pushed the swing very much back and soon stopped it with his legs. His leg was dragged more. He told her, ‘Nothing’s happened. Only thoughts have possessed me. But I ask you, did you talk to him? Has our son made a call on mobile? Tell me truth. Whatever he has said, say it plainly.’
‘There it was. A mobile call. Said they were to catch an evening bus. Both our sons reaching here in the morning.’
‘Not that. I say anything else?’ this time his voice turned harsh and heavy.
‘Have you no faith in me?’ Through its shaking lines, Rama Ma’s face revealed score of pains. The moving beads were pressed more.
‘Why don’t you understand it? They have already made it sure... They haven’t thought it better to ask you or me...’
‘Leave it now. You say and do you think they would follow your advice?’ it’s your mistake. You want to divide. Sold the land. Gone forever. Now never ever think of it...’ she interrupted him. Folded the bead string and pressed it in pain.
‘You won’t come to know. Both of them had started damaging my image. Forget our village. They quarrelled at Surat also. They stopped mutual relationship. You don’t know this. And that’s why I thought let me divide property in my presence so that there’s no dispute after my death. I did what I thought better...’
‘But tell me, have they started relation again?
‘What else? They had to. They have been tempted to sell the land by those devilish company founders. He told me that they give three lacs per bigha. Think how much we get of our entire three farms combined thirty bigha land? Think of it Father! What the hell should I think, tell me?
While he said, he forcefully closed his eyes. And then after a while suddenly he opened. He turned them towards the cowshed. There, where under that cowshed the animals were treated like human beings, now it’s occupied by washing machine and floor grinding machine. He hated this. His heart refused to accept it. Again he cried, ‘Hell to them, and you Witch hell to you, these sons have spoilt my life.’
‘Oh, what my fault is! Why do you call me so?’ again she pressed hard the bead thread.
“I say you Witch. Keep quiet. It’s you that spoilt them.’ Dana Bhagat brought out all his anger and panted heavily. He pushed the swing again in the same temper. It swayed high up and down. In between the up and down frequency whiff of air passed.
‘I say you don’t behave like a child.’ Rama Ma shouted.
Bhagat suddenly stopped the swing and got off it. In doing so it hit is thighs twice. He tumbled but any how balanced himself. For a while stood to come into normal position. Then with his whole shaking body went to a cot laid on the veranda and set down on it. He stared for a while to still swaying swing. Then when his eyes met to Rama Ma’s he bent his head, and dashed his dusted feet soles to un-dust them.
Rama Ma coiled his bead thread into her palms. She became a bit upset and retorted, ‘Oh you always find my faults. You like it. Okay I’m responsible for all this. Are you happy now with that? But that’s not the way. It hasn’t been long enough of your health recovery. Suppose something again takes place, then what will happen?... After you there’s no one to look after me. Who will be my support?’ The quietness of the house breathed only these two old people. Except this everything stood dead.
‘Cattle sold already and now the land...? Bhagat muttered. Wiping her wet eyes with her sari Rama Ma with quick steps went to the drinking water platform. ‘Bhagat, would you take earthen water pot water or fridge water?’
‘Fridge water compels repeated intake. Doesn’t suit to me. give me from the pot.’ He drank it and the smell of soil made him happy. Through the wet eyes, his dim eyes could see full house.
Long and wide passage; big, airy, and spacious rooms; and behind them is a narrow space between two house walls. To the right is the peacock tiled kitchen. On the passage wall is a line of framed god images. Below it is a showcase and that has artificial pearl toys made by the young and married women folk of the home. The wall also boasts colourful, designed artefacts on clothe pieces. And the swing swaying with a cracking sound. The Water platform looks beautiful with steel pots and copper pots. There’s a wash area made of Rajula stones. A cowshed and close by it is the warehouse. A spacious front yard with a tall and wide entrance that has a narrow opening. In a corner is a basil plant. There are other plants like rose, spring creeper, and jasmine. It’s accompanied by a big tree- the Badam. A local kind of a tree, that is standing as if whispering with the wind.
The house had what it possessed earlier but everything with a new look, with a change. Something like that of old pattern. It seems that old body has new clothes. Not for one’s own self but for others. Dana Bhagat saw each and everything. He thought everything’s disappearing away from him. His eyes fixed now on a small place near the small temple of the house. There at that corner of the place he saw his mother’s image. Her hands folded as if she’s demanding something. He carefully put his hands on the cot and stretched himself with somewhat burden at the heart. On his sorrowful old face now came up smile of childhood face. His Father used to stretch on the swing and sang bhajans. His Uncle looked at the entrance gate and waited for the supper. Aunty cleaned milk pots and then prepare everything for milking cows. And Grandpa! Ah he always told stories. Stories of Gods, kings, birds and animals, and outlaws as well. But now that happiness now gone. Lines like dry cotton wicks pulled up on the face. The lips below that white moustache moved. He spoke something like, ‘Outlaws...outlaws...’
As if he’s in delirium he began to speak. The old bones rejuvenated. The cot got young. Something like a kind of whirlwind had taken a shape in him. Rama Ma with her floor kneaded hands came out of the kitchen and stood nearby him, ‘What’s it? What has happened to you? Why such a prattling?’
‘What? What sort of prattling? Me...?’ he stared at her.
‘You say outlaws... I say you’re saying something like ‘outlaws’.
‘Outlaws? O outlaws? Oh it’s nothing but the old age madness. You go. Do your work. Nothing’s to worry. Me going out to the village. Will come soon.’
Spread its dim shadows and the evening was lost into the west side and with it from the east came out the moon and hid the whole village in its light. A few young were seen and they were busy on mobile phones. Some of them thrushed white thin wire like strings into their years and listened wilfully to the songs. Some others stood at the pan-shop. Chewed beetle and nuts, spate, and talked such things that you don’t understand. At the street corner square sat the old people bonding themselves their own olden time. Some faces were lit with brightness and some others dim with restlessness. Their talks matched their faces, you understand from their gestures. True and false, half true. Revealed old golden times. Biri and matchbox were exchanged and brought the whole mankind into their arena.
With heavy steps Bhagat walked up to that side and tried to compose himself. For a while he stood still. The talking old became mute and looked at him.
‘Bhagat, the land dealing sealed?’ one of the old asked him. the other said,’Dana, we’ve heard that you’re to reside now at Surat, with your sons. Se that your case doesn’t turn up like that Laxman.
Bhagat became hot, ‘is it me only my sons selling the land? Your sons worthy to your salt?’
‘We’ve sold land only not the house. You’re to sell your house also. That’s we’ve heard.’ The Village Head pushed his turban under knee to rest his joint of the leg.
‘Who’s he that told you?’
‘Ravji - the broker, told it. Your son had rung him for fixing prices. Right now everyone’s talking about it.’
Bhagat’s legs turned watery. The body bedimmed. His heart flapped with some unknown fright. He thought the whole market was looking at him. He foresaw: long and short hands raised and lowered. Fingers are pointed and pushed. Now he couldn’t stand there to the square. Almost dragging to himself he returned the home. Bent head bent more. It was only his body reached home.
‘Bhagat come in and have your supper.’
‘No. Don’t want to...’
‘Not well. You finish.’
‘But...’ Rama Ma wanted to ask something but couldn’t.
Bhagat sat down on the swing. He wanted her to say many things but his lips stitched together. His words buried down at the bottom of his heart. She felt heavy. Restlessness grew at its worst. Slowly and slowly the swing swayed...up and down...up and down...
It’s Bhima Agiyaras festival tomorrow, Bhagat.’ Rama Ma took beads thread and with forefingers she touched lovingly the beads.
‘So what...?’ he pushed the swing.
‘I at the farm... Nothing that’s nothing but I want to ask you are you to observe the festival?
‘No.’ He pushed hard the swing.
‘I’m to observe. But tell me what should I cook for the sons coming tomorrow? It’s a great festival, that’s why...’ Rama Ma fearfully asked.
‘Cut down this whole front of the house and make its vegetable for those black sheep.’ Bhagat roared. With it stopped the swing. Rama Ma felt a fright for something. A low cry shot from her throat ‘Bhagat....’ And with that her bead thread twirled, and all the beads without any noise, dispersed on the floor. But then the swing moved a bit....

Harish Mahuvakar, ‘Ame’, 3 / A, 1929, Near Nandalay Haveli, Sardarnagar, Bhavnagar 364002, Gujarat, India Cell: +91 9426 22 35 22 Email: