Monday, May 28, 2012

Eventually he got her

By Nalin Verma

Nandji was my childhood friend. We lived and played together. We did not go to school in our early childhood days because our village had no school. But we were enrolled in a school five miles away from our village as we grew a little older. Both of us were probably 12 year old when we started going to the D. H. High School, Done. We covered the distance from home to school and vice versa on foot as there was no other means of conveyance.

Staying together for more than eight hours everyday cemented our bond of friendship more. Both of us belonged to different family background. Still we were friends. Nandji was the son of a small time shop keeper. His father Lakhi Sahu sold petty items like kerosene oil, candles, spices and vegetables to villagers. His was the only shop to cater to over 200 people in the village. But still his was a poor family. Nandjis father did not have enough money to invest in business and become what you may refer to as a businessman of some meaning. Moreover, the villagers surviving on cattle raising and small holdings had little to purchase. It was more like a pastoral village. There was no scope for business to flourish.

Lakhi Sahu was an illiterate person. His illiteracy came in the way of business. So he wanted his son to attain the learning that could enable him to maintain the account of his customers the money given by them in lieu of goods. I belonged to a rather more poor family. But my father was a teacher in a Primary School. Though he himself was not that much educated he wanted me to read and become a well educated person. Educating me was in his top priority. "Son, I will cut on the expenses of my cloths and food to meet your education expenses. I am a poor man but I want you to become an educated person", he invariably told me. He wanted to send me in the city and admit me in a good college after the completion of my secondary level of education.

I and Nandji appeared at the Secondary level examination in late 1970s. I passed the examination with good marks. My bosom friend failed in all the subjects. But then he had learnt to maintain the account of his customers and the money. And that was what his father expected from him. "I did not want Nandji to pass out and go elsewhere for learning more", Lakhi Sahu said reacting on the results. "I am happy at the result. Nandji knows more than what I know that's all, I am satisfied."

Now Nandjis father was eager to get his son married. Nandji was 16 year old and was almost on the verge of "crossing" the age prescribed for marriage. People of my village like those in other villages around believed that if one started getting hairs on ones upper lips, one had crossed the age of marriage. And the girls must be married before attaining the puberty. The Indian law prescribes that only an adult (18 year old) can marry. But not to speak of going by the law, the the villagers even did not know what the law on marriage was. They had their own laws to guide them in marriage and other family customs.

For Lakhi Sahu, going by the law would have meant letting his son cross the "marriageable age". Then other villagers would have looked down upon him for keeping his son a bachelor. "My first duty is to marry my son and then die in peace", Lakhi Sahu used to say. It was hard to find a bride for the boy who had full hair grown on his upper lips and had crossed the age of 16. Marrying the offspring was the responsibility of parents. No one had right to chose his or her mate on their own.

The groom does not see his bride or vice versa till they are tied in nuptial knots even today at my village and several other villages of Bihar state of India. So Lakhi Sahu married his son to a girl belonging to neighboring village with great fanfare. But then there was another problem. Nandji was eager to meet his wife, feel her and taste her. After all, he was a healthy young man. "I am dying to meet her (wife), I want to see her face, I want to kiss her, I want to hold her in my arms, I want to make love with her", Nandji used to say to me and other friends.

But the father did not want the son to sleep with his wife and enjoy sex at such an early age. Coition at early age would have meant loss of health. "Those who avoid sex early in life become robust; sex at the age of 16 or so means loss of energy which can not be compensated", Lakhi Sahu used to say. He was not at fault. All other old people of the village shared his belief.

Lakhi Sahu decided to guard his son from meeting the girl. After all, the father had to take care of his sons health. Lakhi Sahu used to lay his bench and sleep right at the door of the room in which Ramaiya (Nandji's wife)) lived after the sun set. It was to ensure that his son could not sneak into Ramaiyas room stealthily in night. Besides, he repeatedly exhorted his son to avoid the company of his wife till he (Nandji) attained 25 years of age and became robust enough to enjoy sex and family life.

But Nandji found the separation unbearable. Particularly when he had his wife at his home. He had not even seen his wife in 10 days of marriage. But he could not have expressed his desire to his father. Young man could not discuss sex with elderly people. It was against the norms. So he shared his feelings with me and other close friends of his age. Though I was his friend I derived pleasure from his desperation to meet his wife.

He asked me about some clues to meet his wife. I could not help him much. But some other young lads of the village suggested him the clue. They knew of his fathers habit of drinking toddy every evening and then going into deep slumber. They suggested Nandji to dig a big hole by a shovel in the rear wall of the room accommodating his wife and sneak into it through the hole when Lakhi was fast asleep. Making the hole in the wall was not difficult since the house was made up of earth and mud. Virtually dying to meet his wife for the last 10 days, Nandji followed the suggestion of friends and finally succeeded to get in.

Lakhi Sahu got up early in the morning and went to back side of his house to feed his cattle. But then he noticed the hole. He first thought of thieves and hurriedly entered into the room. But he found Nandji and his wife lying in each others arms in an unconscious state. He came out shouting: "my son has been spoiled". Angry as he was he picked up a baton to punish the boy for indulging in "sinful" act.

The commotion outside jerked Nandji out of his sleep. Nandji sensed the catastrophe to overtake him soon. He fled bare footed and half naked. Other villagers gathered around to assuage the anger of Lakhi Sahu. "Lakhi, be normal, heaven has not fallen, it happens..", I heard my father counseling Lakhi. Lakhi could not have punished the bride for a father was not supposed to even touch the body of daughter in law according to the norms and tradition of the village. ends.

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