Short Stories

Kaushalya

Story Characters:

  1. AKASH and ANUSHKA – Husband and Wife at present times
  2. AMOL and VANDANA – Husband and Wife in 1970s time
  3. RAVISHANKAR and KAUSHALYA – Husband and Wife in 1930s time
  4. KAVITA BAI – A Dancer
  5. RENU (AMOL’s sister)
  6. RAMESH CHAND and SARITA (ANUSHKA’s parents) 

Present times:

It is 9:00 AM on Thursday. Hari Prasad, a lawyer, arrived at Rameshchand’s bungalow.

At a doorbell, Sarita, wife of Ramesh Chand, opened the door, welcomed him and requested to take a seat in the living room.

A moment later, Ramesh Chand step into the living room, looking anxious, ‘Yes, Mr Hari Prasad, tell me?’

‘RameshChand Sahab, the divorce filed by your daughter Anushka, the court has given the date next Thursday. Anushka ji has to go with these set of documents to the court to complete divorce formalities. Here are the documents’ said Hari Prasad, handing over documents to Ramesh Chand.

Hari Prasad continued, ‘I have notified your son-in-law Akash and his Lawyer. They should be there on this date.’

Ramesh Chand and Sarita look at each other, upset and maintain silence. Sarita calls Anushka, asking her to come downstairs.

Hari Prasad asks Anushka to review the documents and carry the set to court next Thursday.

Anushka saddened, confused and in dilemma, glance at the divorce documents.

Akash and Anushka are headed for a divorce after two years of their marriage.

Akash met Anushka on the first day of her college while he was in last year; they get acquainted through common friends and fall in love.

Akash is a middle class, soft-spoken and gentle in appearance. He has immense respect for his father, Amol and is dear to his mother, Vandana.

He is the only son and owns a responsibility to take care of them. He expected Anushka to stay with him and support his parents after the marriage.

Anushka is beautiful, sensitive and sometimes childish. She loved Akash and promised to support him in all ways.

Akash, a software engineer, is seated at his office desk. He looked nervous and low in mood.

His colleague and best friend Vishal notice him lost in thought. Curious to know what’s going on, he stepped near to him.

‘Last few days, I see you worried and lost. You are not focused on work.

Anything that I can help you?’

‘Let’s go for a coffee’, replied Akash, hurriedly.

Akash informed the situation that he is going through. He has filed a divorce with Anushka and soon is the court hearing. His parents are not aware of this.

Anushka and Akash had recurring arguments and fought, mostly over trivial issues as she hated to stay along with his parents.

She left the house in a rage. Akash parents believed she will return once she is calm. They attempted to call her, convinced her to return. They even talked to her parents. Her parents tried to resolve the issue but futile.

Akash parents offered to move to their village. Akash had strongly opposed to this decision. This made Anushka feel there is no more care and love for her and his parents are a priority.

Akash did not disclose about divorce from his parents. It may further depress them and may leave home without any notice for the happiness of their son and daughter-in-law.

Vishal notice Akash eyes moist. He placed his hand on his shoulder firmly.

‘I know you and Anushka, you both are a lovely couple. I am shocked, how two beautiful people cannot make a beautiful living.’ 

‘Keep faith in almighty, things will resolve’ assured Vishal.

Akash or Anushka did not intend for divorce. They love each other even now.

Ego and the circumstances had superimposed their love and so is the situation.

It is Wednesday, tomorrow is the day to part their ways officially.

A night, before the divorce day. Anushka is locked in her room and had refused dinner.

Lying on her bed, she cried and remembered the time spent with Akash during college days.

The happiness that brought when Akash got a job and she was the 2nd year in college.

She recalled the day when both of their parents agreed to take their relationship to next level, a marriage after her graduation.

Glancing at the marriage album and turning page by page, she paused at a picture, where she had step forwarded her right foot, entering Akash’s house.

It reminded her of an event, taking memories back to those days.

Flashback:

As Anushka stepped into the house…

Vandana, her mother-in-law, gifted a book named “KAUSHALYA” to the newlywed, daughter-in-law.  She asked her to read this book when she finds the time and advises not to delay.

Anushka took a sight at the book and asked what is it about.

‘This book is written by the women of this house. It is written by KAUSHALYA, my mother-in-law during the period in the 1930s. She gifted this to me and I have updated the book with my life and experiences sometime in the 1970s. It is a many-year-old book. In fact, this is NOT a book; it is a knowledge; It is a journey’ replied Vandana.

‘It teaches the tolerance, patience, pain, suffer, sacrifice that the women of this house burdened for the happiness of the family. My wish is that the woman of the house should continue this trend and so, I am handing it over to you’.

Anushka smiled, seeks her blessings and proceed with a book in her hand.

She entered her bedroom with the book. To empty her occupied hand, she quickly unzipped her luggage bag and placed the book, that had all her marriage sari and belongings.

Present times:

Suddenly, this event and the thought reminded her of the book. She got up, opened the wardrobe, pulled the bag hurriedly where she had kept the book along with her clothes when she had returned from Akash’s house.

Anushka had least bothered for the book. It stayed there for all these years in the same bag. She carried it back in the same bag to her parents’ house, along with all her belongings in it and moved out of her in-laws’ place in anger.

She picked up the book and curiously turned the first page.

It is narrated by Kaushalya (her great mother-in-law) during the 1930s in black and white days – the life of women during that era.

The decade of 1930

Kaushalya is married to Ravishankar at the age of 15 years. Those days’ women would get married early in teens and were given all household responsibilities.

Ravishankar and his family are famous cloth merchants and had a shop in the town. They lived as a joint family of around 20 members in a huge house, popularly called Wada during those times.

Kaushalya’s day starts at 5 AM, takes bath, put rangoli, pluck flowers from the backyard, perform Tulsi puja, take blessings of her in-laws, husband and other elders at home. Then, proceed to pull water from the well, accumulate it for a storage. Later part of the day, she would spend most of the time in the kitchen.

The day ends with leg massage to her husband.

The kitchen is equipped with an old type of cooking facilities, no gas burner, electric gas, or a stove/cylinder, instead, it is “Chula”. To put a Chula, it required to lit fire to the wooden pieces, blow with the pipe to increase the flame and then perform cooking.

It required good effort for each and any task to perform during those days, whether to make Indian spices masala, home-made papad, pickles, use of an oval-shaped heavy rock as a grinder to make chutney or idli batter.

Women were not allowed to go outside in public, no movies, no restaurants, no regular shopping, no gatherings other than family functions.

They lived in fear of elders and showed respect, covering their top half face with a sari was customary in several parts of India and it exists even today in some communities, being kind to family members, tolerance against violent acts and sacrifices.

Ravishankar is skilled in cloth and trading business. He keeps travelling to another city to set up his business.

Ravishankar is strict and hardly talk with his wife. He is busy planning the cloth stores and grows business across other cities. He barely gets to speak with his wife due to many people around all the time in the family.

At night, they get time to interact with each other.

Kaushalya expected a baby when she was just 18 years old.

Meanwhile, Ravishankar planned to temporarily move to another city to set up his store. He discussed his plan with elders. Kaushalya is advised to stay with other family members as she is expecting a baby.

Ravishankar alone moved to the city. He starts setting up a store.

In the new city, Ravishankar happened to visit and watch a show of a group of folk dancers. With regular visits, he started liking one of the lady dancer Kavitabai.

She is a local dancer in the town.

Ravishankar keeps meeting Kavitabai and fall with an illicit relationship.

In a meantime, Kaushalya delivers a baby boy named, Amol. Ravishankar gets the news through a telegram.  He visits his hometown to see his wife and newborn baby.

Elders at home advise Ravishankar to take Kaushalya along with him to the city.

Ravishankar is not comfortable and refuse. But, with pressure from elders, he agrees.

Ravishankar, with Kaushalya and Amol, move to the city.

Ravishankar continues to return home in the drunken state late in the night, and many times stay with Kavita bai.

‘Do you have more work?  Do you stay in the shop at night? I request not to drink’ Kaushalya enquires, fearing him.

‘How dare you question me!!! You are my wife and be in your capacity’ raising his voice, he loses temper and beats her for questioning him.

One night, in a drunken state, unable to walk properly, Kavitabai shoulder him till his house.

Kaushalya opened the door, shocked to see the state of her husband and Kavitabai along, she holds him for support. 

Ravishankar pushes her aside, holds back Kavitabai and ask her to take him to the bedroom.

Kavitabai, with a feeling of guilt, took him to the bedroom and closed the door, as ordered by Ravishankar.

At door close, tears rolled down from Kaushalya’s cheeks. She hugged her son tightly and cried inconsolably.

Her tolerance towards the violent acts, humiliation, pain, sacrifice, fear and continued respect towards her husband is truly an essence of the women during those times.

Kavitabai leaves the city without any notice, sending an apology letter to Kaushalya.

Ravishankar, with lack of focus on the business, incurs huge losses. He still finds support and help from Kaushalya. He realizes the serious mistake and returns to his hometown with family.

A few years later, Kaushalya delivers another baby girl, Renu.

Kaushalya, 4th-grade pass, know to read and write in the local language. She wrote her struggle and gifted it to Vandana on the day of marriage, advising her to keep the source of the truth to herself.

 The decade of 1970

Kaushalya and Ravishankar move to their town after Amol marries Vandana.

Vandana, married to Amol around the 1970s live in Mumbai. Amol worked as a clerk in a private company.

Vandana promised to face all challenges in her marital life with tolerance, patience and sacrifice, similar to Kaushalya.

Amol’s younger sister Renu’s marriage is fixed. He is making all the arrangements.

On the day of marriage, the groom’s family demand dowry to be paid completely. Rituals will proceed only after jewellery and cash arrangements are made.

Ravishankar had already exhausted all funds. Amol had taken some financial help from his friends.

Amol pleaded for some time to make arrangements and allow the marriage rituals to proceed.

Suddenly, Vandana interrupts Amol.

‘Take them, these value more than what you are asking for’ said Vandana to the groom family members, handing it over to them.

She had removed all her jewellery, gifted by her parents at her marriage.

Members present at the ceremony go silent and rituals are carried out.

Vandana keeps saving money, given by Amol for daily household expenses.

The refrigerator had newly arrived in India during the 80s, expensive, but useful for homemakers.

Few housewives in the neighbourhood would organize a monthly kitty party. They would collect an equal amount of money from the group, make a paper-chit and write all the party attender ladies name. It is kind of a lottery system.

Picking one chit and the name appearing on the chit is a winner for that month and will get all the money. This way, turn-by-turn all ladies would get the money in lump sum month-wise, based on the picked chit.

Vandana had desired to buy a Refrigerator from the saved money and from the kitty party 

One day, Amol received a telegram of Kaushalya being hospitalized for an illness. The medical expenditure goes beyond the limits.

Vandana, known that the financial help is required by her husband, she took out her savings and gave it to Amol.

A year later, Akash is born. Vandana, to assist the family for financial support, start providing tiffin boxes to few office-goers.  Her income is enough for Akash school fees.

In many situations and circumstances, she puts back her personal aspiration for the happiness of the family.

A few years later, Amol is promoted, Akash is grown up and finally, Vandana got her desired fulfilled, a new refrigerator at home.

Present times:

It is almost morning. Anushka is reading the last page:

“Women in the history of this country have always been betrayed. We all know how goddess SITA suffered and how DRAUPADI was humiliated. Nothing will change. Women will be disrespected, will be worked as slaves, beaten, raped and even killed in the future. This is man’s world.

One of the biggest attribute women should possess is her tolerance for the sufferings, patience, respect, sacrifice for the family, bold to face challenges, love and care. People in the future may read this, laugh and disagree because they will NOT be able to digest this bitter truth.”

Anushka wiped her tears.

Lost in a deep thought, Anushka is seated in a car to proceed to court.

She is deeply upset and depressed.

Akash, on another side, has arranged for his parents for travel to Shirdi.

They are not aware of Akash getting a divorce.

Amol and Vandana proceed to the pilgrimage in a rental car. Akash ride towards the court.

Anushka is stuck in a traffic jam due to an accident.

Her car kept moving slowly across the accident spot. She notices injured victims are being boarded to an ambulance.

Turning her head to get a glimpse, she is shocked to see her in-laws.

Panicked, she asked the driver to stop the car. She hurried to the spot; the paramedics had already left few meters.

Akash is informed of the incident. He rushes to the hospital.

Doctors update him that his father escaped with minor injuries but his mother is badly hit on the lower abdomen damaging kidney.

Akash offers to donate his kidney to save her mother’s life at any cost.

Doctors convey to him that they have already found a donor. Due to the privacy reasons, they can’t reveal the identity unless permitted by the donor post-surgery.

‘Surgery is already in progress. Your father has done paper works. Calm down, she will be better’ said one of the attending doctor to restless Akash.

Climax:

Akash, anxiously waiting outside the surgery room, get remind to call Anushka and inform that he will not make it to court today.

He dials the number. He could hear the phone ringing. He also heard another phone ring sound coming from a handbag deposited near the reception counter.

Attending nurse picked the cellphone from the handbag and yelled at a nearby doctor, chatting to a few visitors.

‘Doctor, that donor phone is ringing, her husband is calling’ shouted nurse so that it is audible to the doctor.

Akash, hearing the conversation, straightaway walk to the nurse and snatch the phone. He re-dials. The phone rings for Anushka!!!

He fell on his knee, covering his face with palm, crying and sobbing.

‘Anuskha donated her kidney!!!’ said Akash to himself, stammering.

Few hours post-operation, Vandana is told Anushka donated her kidney.

Vandana is desperate to meet her, admitted in the adjacent room.

Vandana is moved on a wheelchair to her room. They both meet with other family members aside.

‘Why did you do that?’ asked Vandana with tears in her eyes.

‘Your son loves you more than me’ said Anushka, turning her head slowly towards Akash.

‘I understood that a woman who has learnt to sacrifice for the sake of family is her real strength and an attribute of a woman.

I…I tried to do a bit of mine’ replied Anushka, taking a deep breath.

Anushka regrets the mistake. Akash and Anushka hug each other as if they are made for each other and will never be apart.

Message:

The story depicts the life, hardships and sacrifices of a woman over the period of 100 years to present times.

Lot has changed in lifestyle, behaviour and empowerment but one thing will never change – it is the inner strength and power of the woman to fight against any challenges of life.

“KAUSHALYA” is a woman-oriented story with a message “woman is powerful” irrespective of any generation.

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