The Dilemma

It was dusk. The purple clouds were all over all ready to give way to the dark musty nights of the village. The nights here are usually silent with clear faint noises of some far off distant stage program, nautanki, as the localities used to call them, which has always been there mysteriously since Hari’s last remembered memory. He always have heard them, before dozing off on his hand weaved cot, creating an imagery of a mystery land with its fantasy music travelling over the plain fields spanning till horizon, helping him to divert him from his miseries like a lullaby and sleep calmly.

But in monsoons the noisy stage actor’s painful recitations and the so assumed musical instruments are overshadowed with strong, precisely streaking, squeaking, hissing, screeching and buzzing noises of innumerable insects made homeless by the swinging continuous rains.

Hari from his window could see the atmosphere’s purple tinge, slowly getting a mystical touch by the high rising kitchen smoke, in swirling clouds, from almost every house in the evening village. The beauty, the smell, the noise, the temperature all was optimum to suit the best, having the capacity to calm any human sense organ.The whole ambience was filled with happiness, a refreshingly relaxed mood triggering beauty by the playful nature.

But as they say that the beauty lays behest the viewer’s eyes was what happening with Hari. In spite of him loving the season so much his musings very strictly distracted him from the petrichor smell of the ground. His tensions were pertaining issues which will affect him lifelong forcing him to avoid his likeness for the season, highlighted with the excuse that the season will come next year anyway but the decisions made now will impact the remaining life of Hari.

Hari left the window and laid back, still consumed and introspecting, on his cot in his kaccha house, diverting his numb sense from the outdoors and fixating it at the swirls in hay of his thatched roof supported with evenly spaced rectangular wooden bars, whose color has now become tar black because of the stuck smoke of indoor earthen cooking stove.

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Image Source: newtopiamagazine.wordpress.com

He struggled and battled to deduce a logical happy solution but whenever he proceeded with a solution a new problem came up in the end, guiding him either to compromise or to get reminded of the angry face of her maternal aunt, who left the room few hours ago. But one thing of which he is very clear in his head is that he is highly indebted to his maternal parents and has to try to the fullest to not to go against them. His maternal uncle and aunt were the ones who have taken care of him after his parent’s demise. Though they were, and are, not financially sound yet they adopted Hari and have tried to keep him as well off as their own son Tarun.

Hari very clearly, since the time when his wisdom tooth was budding, knew that he was adopted and what all he is getting is a luxury in itself and hence have to pay sincere gratitude to it and them. Hence in spite of whatever came, he always has taken all the rest three with high regards, with almost zero troubles from his side, even by mistake.

But in spite of all this he also loved Radha, loved more than the rest three, which obviously meant more than him. He knew that this is a relation which he himself had developed and cherished, as compared to the rest granted relationships to him by birth. She was one of the very few, apart from the trees, plains and the seasons of the village, with whom he associated the most, whose presence alone made him content and gave the courage to do anything in the world. He knew that if it were not his maternal family, he wouldn’t have hesitated to stake his life if it came to this with respect to Radha.

He didn’t want to disturb any and wanted to hit the perfect chord for all but the issue was so complicated, flavored with obvious hidden personal agendas, that it was extremely difficult for Hari to take an unbiased neutral decision in which none of the parties have to compromise, and by parties he counted one himself too. But after a lot of brainstorming he knew that one of the two sides has to compromise and even though he knew he wanted which party to do it, he didn’t had the guts to go and tell them, specifically after today noon’s reaction of his aunt on the topic.

Finally his smart side suggested him that his aunt was a hard nut to crack but his uncle was relatively easier to convince. He knew that he is more mature by sense and age both and if he pleads to him and tries to convince him, he holds a chance as even at noon he was relatively silent and was trying to sort and talk out the issue unlike his wife who preferred to blast when things didn’t go her way.

Thinking this Hari got up, adjusted a little, sat, took a deep breath, mustered all his courage and headed to talk to his uncle in private. But as soon as he reached his brown carved wooden door, from which he always had to bent and move across, he got a knock.

With a pouncing heart, praying not to be his aunt, Hari opened the door.

It was his uncle.

The lines on his forehead relaxed a bit. Hari bowed down to look in his eyes and asked very innocently, “Yes uncle.”

His uncle was a stout man in his fifties, wearing a half sweater on his half sleeves white vest and blue checks lungi in monsoons probably cause of the age and tropical greener monsoon cold with a big bulging tummy serving the resting grounds of his wired glasses. He came and with a very weary and tired face he looked at Hari, who already was contemplating upon from where and how to start if something unusual came, which was bound to come.

He in a very calm yet heavy voice, placing the left hand on Hari’s right shoulder, said, “Hari, you are no kid any more. You know the situations of this house.”

Then slightly adjusting the folds of his lungi and pivoting the door nearby continued, “You know how desperate are the needs for money in this house. From the basic needs like house, clothing and food to the evolving needs of education and medication, all are just met with extreme struggle. And with time and growing age, the need for money is growing exponentially to meet various age requirements.”

“I just want to say that if there is any chance that you could marry Upadhyayaji’s daughter then at least a lot of our miseries will be sorted for long. I know it’s a hard decision to call but a man is known for the choices he makes and trust me nothing is permanent not even the love and the pain Bourne out of that love’s separation. I know you both like each other but love is just a state of mind.”

Then pretending to cleanse his glasses using his lungi, avoiding the awkwardness of the lie he was about to say he, in his most practical way, said,

“Think practically!!”

“Upadhyayaji’s daughter is also good looking. She is educated; she is well versed in all household work. All aspects to have a good wife are fulfilled and on top of that Upadhyayaji is warm enough to offer such an amount as a marriage gift to you, with absolutely no conditions and demands. Where else you could find such a noble hearted man. And don’t forget marriage is a lifelong event, hence you will be related to Upadhyayaji and his family for life long.”

This last sentence he said with slight insistence.

Hari looked at his uncle, amazed on how smartly he has manipulated the facts. He knew very well that Upadhyayaji’s daughter is an 12th pass squint eyed dull wheatish complexion girl, whose capabilities to do house hold work were highly doubtful as she was the lone pampered child of such a financially sound family of the locality. They, according to Hari, absolutely had no interest of what character the groom holds for their daughter. Their only criteria’s were that:

  1. Their daughter should get married at the societal defined age and
  2. The groom should be a man of the same caste and should be decent to average looking.

To which Hari was a more than best pick. In short they needed a puppet, a souvenir for their daughter to show to the society and avoid societal disgrace.

Hari knows that his uncle’s entire saying is highly motivated and balanced by the money offered as dowry amount, balancing the rest of the defects, which were not easy to ignore for him, lest he forgot the love for Radha. A big 20 lakh was the price offered for his entire life miseries, an amount for the man to be sold, who is not employed and doesn’t has his own house and parents. It’s because of the money that everyone is so keen on this marriage.

Anyway Hari very timidly repeated the same to his uncle. He stressed on the fact that “At least meet Radha, so what that she is poor, so what that she is an orphan but at least we love each other before marriage, love which people don’t do and get even after getting married. And even if we consider love as a state of mind, we still have the required respect and looking up at each other for issues, which will always sustain the tests of time and will preserve the likeness in us even if the love is gone with age.”

“Please uncle I know that you already have done a lot for me. Just this time, this last time, please support us. I promise after this you will not be bothered of anything from my side. In fact I will leave this house and will start working and will send some financial help, what I could, my entire life, but please re-think on this once.”

On this Mr. Ravi stood up, took a breather and said, OK, let me discuss this with your aunt. I can’t promise but let’s see.

Radha was lying next to Hari while he was terrified as hell. He was awake. It was a cool, monsoon approaching, summer night in his village. Staying in a village in northern Indian has its own flavor of seasons.The summer days are sweat drenching and hot which makes the nights relatively cooler, supported obviously by the greenery around in the village. Hari was supposed to sleep calmly with Radha but her sudden frequent and severe ups and downs in health had terrified him so much that sleeping is the last thing he wanted to do this night.

While Radha was sleeping cozily in his lap, he was looking at her face, caressing it affectionately, trying to imagine the pain that she bore all this time. The life traumatizing conditions of her health had troubled both for the past few weeks now. He still was sub consciously praying to Lord Shiva and was constantly chanting the now memorized Mahamrityunjaya mantra in his mind trying not to disturb the somehow avoided pain and managed sleep. He was looking at her with his most concerned eyes and didn’t know how he got back to the days when this marriage was a far fetched dream to him. He clearly remembered how his guardians after a month’s chaos and tussle agreed to the marriage only on the condition of Kundali matching. Usually in Hindu families they have a tradition to match kundalies before marriage to see the compatibility between the partners. Out of nowhere, suddenly, the occurrence of the so opposed marriage was now being analysed on the parameters of whether the marriage will be a success or not, obviously for the known reasons of finding a new flaw to cancel, keeping the nature of the reason involving supernaturalism this time and using the most trusted and fearing trickery on the name of a thing which has feared humans since inception-the future.

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Image Source: Pinterest.com

Hari’s aunt was constantly murmuring, ensuring Hari to listen her murmurs clearly, highlighting that if the kundali doesn’t matches or if there came any flaw then this marriage will not take place as Hari, unfortunately, is family and hence Hari’s troubles are family’s trouble.

Anyway Hari got Radha’s Kundali and gave it to them for matching. Hari very clearly remembered that it was winter yet he was perspiring like a pig. He very clearly knew the agenda behind this kundali matching; hence he knew that something or the other is waiting to come his way. The only problem was on how to go against the guardians and speak. But no matter what, these past humid months have provided an optimum grounds for Hari to think and rethink, making up his mind that he has to stick with Radha at any cost for the general betterment of all, for now and for the future. He was ready to deny any such yoga or dosha in the matching.

While he stood outside the doors perspiring, the nerve chilling cold, the mist and the dew drops laden green village was pushing the inner room people to do their job and get over with a conclusion as soon as possible. They all once done, called out for Hari.

Once he arrived, his aunt without giving anyone a chance to build the premise, said with her always irritated face, “Look I was saying you can’t marry her, now see what Panditji has to say.” Though she said something of her own interest then but still she made such a disgusted face that ignoring her aunt, Hari kept his focus on his uncle and the Pandit. His uncle again in a very deliberate tone said, “Beta according to Panditji, they say that Radha has a mahadosha in her kundali. It’s this dosha which consumed her parents at the time of her birth. And frankly the same dosha is also present in your kundali as well, cause your parents……….” he stopped, blinked and nodded slightly twice.

“Anyway this dosha is present in both of your kundalis and once you both marry this dosha will be activated and will result in the death of either of the two, mainly the girl.” According to panditji, “It’s one of the rarest of rare mahadoshas and it’s so strong and fatal that it will definitely show its effects within days of activation. And the worst part is beta that there is no solution to it apart from the one which you already know.”

Hari expected something of this sort, but frankly he didn’t expect this intense an effect. As per him the max that the kundali’s planetary combinations can offer is a non-compatible quarrelsome partner, which he knew will be a framed reason by his guardians. But death of a partner is something which took him aback for an instance. He took a minute to respond. But within that minute his days of self convincing kept shouting that all this is framed, don’t get sabotaged at the conspiracy Hari, go for what you have decided, Go Hari, Go for your love, go for Meera.

Hence even the recent inculcated fear of death could not penetrate to his sane conscious and he repeated what his inner personality kept shouting.

“No matter what, I still want to marry this girl. If death is what is being offered I will take my chances. And as you say that the dosha is a grave one and will get activated instantly than if anyone of us dies the other will follow what the family wants. So ultimately if the kundali is correct and has powers than what you all want will happen uncle but just after a while, and if the kundali is wrong than any which way kundali matching as the criteria for the marriage is negated at first place.”

“Hence in short I will marry Radha.”

A roaring happened in the sky, proclaiming the advent of the monsoon over the descending summers. Hari instantly got back to check whether Radha got awakened or not. But she still was deep asleep, relieving Hari a bit. He, in his thoughts, forgot to chant the mantras again. He adjusting himself a bit started chanting again. But a comforting change in season, that to Hari’s favorite season, calmed him a bit. Also Radha was sleeping soundly like an infant, hence his only effort was now to be awake and chant, which now, after so much practice, formed hari’s daily routine, making it more of an effortless work for him. The main tiring tasks for him were being awake and focus. But he was relaxed today cause of the sound sleep of his partner, making him enjoy and feel the approaching rain, which he missed last year.

Hari was feeling relaxed and calm to his inner core today and somehow today he wanted to go through all the hassles he went through to get this lady sleep this soundly in front of him. He clearly remembers that after his adamant proclamation the family surrendered unapprovingly. But the seeds of skepticism were already sown in his mind as no matter how strong his inner Hari screamed back then, but death is something which needs concern, a strong and serious concern. It was for the first time in his entire life that he so sincerely felt annoyed, irritated and helpless with him being in a village away from resources, consultation and help. Also his illiterate status had made him a recluse always, making him to struggle now to tap and gather the required need now. But what is to be done is to be done to at least the self’s utmost level with true honesty to the cause.

Hari went to all his friends and foes whom he felt worthy of contacting and relying in the village and discussed the issue without even a slight doubt and hesitation in sharing the family crisis and the seeking solution to the new created problem in his life. He went pleading from one astrologer to another, to whom he could reach, about his issue. And to his surprise all of them did tell the same thing. After every meet with a new astrologer his dilemma, confusion and fear got entangled and complex, all pointing in a direction to go against his inner voice. His situation became worse after every meet with no offered solution of any sort along with a surging new problem of severe shortage of money he faced by paying for the numerous astrology consultations.

The whole lazy and nerve chilling winter of Hari went being hyperactive and sweaty because of this. And the worst part was that all the trouble and efforts relating to the cause didn’t progress and just coiled around the same zero level. Very rarely Hari got a chance to feel and realize the crisp, shiny and warm heat of the winter sun. Like his all other non Radha relating issues of life, the season too was too trifle a provocation to get noticed or distracted for Hari.

A man exercises as the sun rises amid dense fog on a cold winter morning in Kolkata
Image Source: http://www.rediff.com

The whole winter season for him went like the season itself, being comforting and cozy, mentally, as Radha was with him but simultaneously being physically fatally cold, like the trouble of Radha’s physical health and the his run for a new astrologer every time. The whole season remained grey, pale and foggy both literally and figuratively for him obviously with longer dark periods and shorter periods of light and hope.

Radha suddenly did an ephemeral adjustment breaking Hari’s chain of thoughts again. She adjusted and went back to sleep cozily. Hari, using his lean body, acrobatically bent and kissed on her forehead in his lap, and smilingly thought of the greener and lush and colorful time period after the grey village winter.

Owing o the permanency of seasons and change, the season did change and brought the calmness and productivity of spring in the village. Now the light prevailed more over dark justifying the resurrecting nature of the season. It brought a new ray of hope in Hari’s life as a friend who was an astrologer himself. He suggested Hari that the dosha in the kundali is true. The death or any equivalent misery is an unavoidable fact. But then if death is an ultimate truth, than the creator, of both death and life, is also an ultimate truth. He told Hari that nothing can escape death, but these rules are for we mortals. Nothing is impossible in front of the lord of lords, the fabled lord of death, Lord Shiva himself. If he has awarded the means of premature death in your kundali than he also has devised means to evolve and win life over that premature death.

He suggested Hari to chant Mahamritunjay mantra daily till how long they could do to please the lord and create an elusive task for death itself. Hari in a situation like this could have done anything which even a nobody would have suggested him. And this was something which made sense to him, a supernatural remedy to a supernatural cause for a supernatural event. As not marrying was not an option hence since the very next day, he convinced a not so religious and superstitious Radha to chant the mantra by convincing her to avoid even the slightest possibility of doubt. Radha reluctantly agreed, more to please Hari than to please the cause.

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Image Source: wiralfeed.wordpress.com

The happy and bright spring season brought a new horizon to their relationship and life. Finally after a long hustle and change in seasons the marriage was happening. This marriage had a most varied set of feelings in all. But none could match Hari because of his most complex and distraught set of feelings. While on one side he was touched out of the immense happiness cause of the marriage and the triumph over issues yet simultaneously he was frantically terrified and shaken speculating the natural and supernatural consequences in waiting. Marriage is a life changing gamble in one’s life but for Hari the stakes were pretty high and grave as here the bids involved life and not events.

Anyway, like the spring the flower of Hari’s life blossomed too. Hari, post marriage, has become the poet in love with nature, relishing the entire beauty of the spring season. His mornings were pleasant now with soothing noon and calm evenings, ending with comfortable nights. The life and its agendas seemed very affordable, and clear as the sky of the season. Any aroused issues seemed frivolous to him in the presence of his partner. They both enjoyed the nature and the season to their fullest. All can’t be better than this. And in this perfectness Hari, from somewhere within, started feeling that the doshas mentioned were nothing but hoaxes blown out of proportions. Any which way Radha was more of a self made lady with slight to zero reliance on God, an atheist by popular saying. Hence a more casual form combined with an atheist, made Hari to be a bit relaxed on the chanting front of the Mahamritunjay mantra, opening gates for the biggest mistake of his life.

With the descent of spring and advent of dry angry summer, the effects of avoiding the mantra showed its colors for the couple, with Radha being the main prey of time and dosha. Her health remained unstable often, she started becoming weak. Hari tried visiting doctors but his financial condition and the heroic triumph for his cause over the family made him helpless on the monetary front. Radha became too weak and feeble now. Fainting now was a regular phenomenon; with no proper medical assistance forcing Hari’s already swollen and pricking red eyes to ensure her not to fall on some damaging household edge. Hari now formed the shadow of Radha following and looking after her, almost always, making her also feel bad and worried. The sweltering heat became more uncomfortable and scorching than ever before. The relatively cooler nights were the only saving grace left from the painful and dangerous day’s heat comforting Hari to not worry of Radha as that time she was in bed and he doesn’t had to worry of her falling along with the sole ray of hope of bright future by chanting the mantras the whole night. Hari’s financial conditions were already worse and got worsened like this season’s heat and Radha’s medical situations. The whole season went with the rising temperatures outside to the rising fear of existence inside. Life of Hari was now dry and barren like the vegetation of the landscape with mirages of life forming after every successful completion of the mantra chanting, with traces of recovery like the traces of water in the season. Life of Radha was synonymous to water in the season, most required but least available. The heat, the sun, the heavy recitation and Radha’s state made Hari’s throat remained parched always confusing him of the real reason for that. Hari sometimes convinced himself that whatever is happening is happening for a greater cause and the physical worries are  because of the heat and the sun strokes. But he, deep down, knew the real cause which never made him give up on the real power of the mrityunjay mantra.

He like an ardent follower kept on reciting the mantras until one fine day he experienced the petrichor smell of the ground again. The monsoons are back again. The first few drops did the same to the parched village landscape what Hari’s devoted praying did for Radha. They both casted an enigmatic spell and energy in their respective relied lives. The mantras did their share and created a great relieve in the couple’s life. Hari felt doubly relived on Radha’s recovery and missing last year’s monsoon to enjoy this time with the love of his life. He was happy, his musings and efforts showed their color, the vibrant ones this time. But like the summer, this achievement was not that smooth also to follow for Hari as there were times when surrendering or thoughts of trying something else went across Hari’s mind. But his stubborn and rebellious attitude once brought Radha in his life and now the same attitude brought back the life in her. Her health now got better and better like the advent of the water laden clouds in the sky. The monsoon had arrived but still there was time for the cats and dogs to pour like the health of Radha which was on the ascent but still had the scope for betterment.

Suddenly Hari’s eyes opened and he got out of his tumultuous past experiences. As soon as his sleep broke he looked at Radha once again, she still was sleeping soundly. He immediately started chanting the mantra again. The dawn was on its way though felt a bit delayed because of the cover by the showering clouds. Radha was still sleeping and Hari was still chanting.

He saw the time and stopped chanting the mantras. He very carefully adjusted Radha’s head and moved it from his lap and placed it on the pillow nearby. He then with a pin drop silence stretched a bit and looked out from the window at the most serene scenery where the distant plains met the grey sky, with the soothing hidden sun trying to illuminate from somewhere illuminating the painting with its grayish luminescence.

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Image Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

He took the most air which his lungs accommodated before adjusting the room, finding his slippers to wear, collecting the empty turmeric milk glasses which his guardians gave as the only thing to Radha for building her inner immunity as their gesture of help, and looking at Radha’s face before leaving the room. He opened his short brown wooden carved door by smoothly unlocking the door chain. He went to the drain in their aangan, where they used to keep all the used utensils. The morning was light, fresh and clear because of the previous night’s rain, which facilitated his aunt’s cribbing to his uncle in the room when she said,

“You are useless, since so long you have been trying. Upadhyayaji will start thinking of someone else.”

To which came a very regressive reply of his uncle,

“You are dumb. It should look all natural and smooth. Anyway I already have played my masterstroke, now we just have to wait for the news to break in.”

Then with a pause the voice said

“Last night was the last glass of milk which we offered; start getting ready to meet Upadhayayji ……………………….once again.”

Suddenly a roar appeared in the cloud somewhere and it started pouring, pouring heavily again. But like the last year, Hari will not get a chance to enjoy this year’s or maybe any of the coming year’s monsoons. His monsoons went dry, for always now.

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