The spell of rain had just come to an end leaving behind the sparkling rain-washed leaves, the soft earth beneath and the remaining white patches of clouds in the celestial dome. Standing underneath the heavily ornate balcony, Kavita was lost in a state of trance. She kept staring at the open void in front of her. In a flash, the old memories came to her as the aggressive sea waves. It was one such day ten years back when Kavita with her two years old daughter, Sumi in her arms had left the portals of her husband’s house. After all who can spend one’s life with an educated fool in today’s world? The fear of losing a roof did not frighten her. Her only concern was Sumi. The weather outside synchronized with Kavita’s mental storm. The rain slashes had seemed to blow away the world. In such a deplorable state, Kavita left. Her salt stream blended with the heavenly agony – rain.
That day Kavita left with blemishes all over. She did not know one soul to whom she could go and take refuge. Her parents had pushed her at the backyard of their memory all because she had held Sunil’s hand and had decided to marry him against all implorations. And today the blemishes are not alone in her heart but also all over her body. The scars caused by whips and burnt stubs still show on her hands and neck. Was she contemplating on reconciling with her past life that she left and came out? Reconciling with the man with a brutal taste of handling a wife? Reconciling with the man for whom wife is a property and not one to truly love? Kavita was caught in a storm of agony. Her little daughter Sumi was playing avoiding the focus of her still distracted mother. By now she had rolled herself in mud. Couple of more children from the neighbourhood joined her instinctively. Sumi was undoubtedly jubilant in taking the lead in playing so enthusiastically and collect all grimace over herself. Kavita was still lost in her thoughts. The cinemascope of her husband’s torture kept her rooted to the ground. She was unabashed by all the happenings around her.
Kavita began her strugglesome life. Soon after she tore out her the then soul mate from her heart. Being a graduate in Commerce, she approached the small shops and the well-established shopping complexes with the request if she could sit behind the counter and help the shop owner with accounts. Initially some people looked at her with devouring eyes while others dismissed her for being clumsily dressed. The fight against the brutal discrimination had put Kavita on a serious trial. Today the stillness around had raised a storm in Kavita.
One day being more prepared for a denial, Kavita approached Mr Din Dayal, a leading shop keeper of Subhash Colony in Nagpur. For the first time someone had endeared her sense of self-esteem and dignity. After months of facing indignation at many doors, Kavita beamed with joy. With hands folded, she extended her silent gratitude to the heavens above. The contract brought her to work from the very next day. Next morning Kavita was excited about her first job deal. She tidied herself, requested her new acquaintance in the neighbourhood, Lalita to keep an eye on Sumi while she would be away. Lalita had already started adoring the fighting spirit welling up in Kavita.
With elegant strides, the latter made for the shop. The sixty years old Mr Dayal could read a glow on Kavita’s face, a look of promise and commitments. Within a couple of hours, Kavita understood the business policy to begin with. She kept weaving in her mind how to elevate the profit bar of Mr Dayal, how to attract more clients by the virtue of pleasant talk etc. In no time Kavita became all rolled in one.
The next morning Kavita reached earlier than the pledged time to do up the decor of the shop. She had already assigned herself as the Custodian of Dayal Paradise. With the help of couple of more men, she offered a new look of gaiety and invite for the customers. No wonder Kavita by the dint of her latent skills and sense of gratitude won over the proprietor. Kavita’s talent kept unfolding one by one. She soon became the icon head of Dayal Paradise. Mr Dayal getting older entrusted Kavita with all responsibilities. The dull lightings were won over by bright LED bulbs. The dust deposits at places were wiped away. Delighted Mr Dayal asked Kavita to demand all that struck her on priority list. Without mincing words, Kavita urged Sumi’s education in a reasonably good school. Being an old inhabitant of Nagpur, he knew most of the influential people whom he could approach for this petty task. Besides if the mother is so innately bright, the child would certainly be carrying some of her shades.
The next day Mr Dayal’s only heir, Manjari volunteered to take the child to the school she worked in. Manjari had become a widow after her husband’s death in a road accident. Since then she shifted her lonely self to the palatial house owned by her father. As a primary teacher she took it as her responsibility to guide Sumi and bring her up as her own. Well Kavita had never dreamt of these bonus that would come her way. On the other hand, Kavita invested all her abilities in raising the parameters of the shop to unimaginable heights. Mr Dayal’s profits kept conquering newer rungs. Kavita too shifted to a cosy two bedroom flat close to Dayal Paradise.
With the business touching the sky, the singular shop kept expanding horizontally and vertically adding more gusto to itself. The range and variety of goods kept flowing in and out. One morning black clouds of despair fell on Mr Dayal’s family. Early that morning, Mr Dayal had gone for his morning ablutions when he suffered a severe cardiac arrest. Unfortunately, no one was awake till then. In the large house his gasping and moaning could not be heard by anyone. Resultantly no medical aid could be given to him. Mrs Dayal discovered her husband dead when she was about to use the toilet.
Mr Dayal’s death not only brought doom to his other two survivors but also to Kavita’s life. For three consecutive days Dayal Paradise was kept closed. The best proof of Mr Dayal being a popular figure is that people came flowing in with flowers to offer their tribute to the honest man. Kavita played the most dominant role in receiving guests since she was by now a very known figure. Mrs Dayal had broken down completely. By now Kavita had become more of a family member.
On the third afternoon, a Mercedes halted in front of Dayal mansion. A lawyer in uniform strode in and settled his brief case in the ornamental drawing room. Kavita received the gentleman with utmost humility. Mr Dev, the lawyer announced the purpose of his uninvited arrival. It was for the ritual of reading out the will drafted by Late Din Dayal. According to the will, Manjari, the only heir by blood would enjoy fifty percent of her father’s property in all terms excluding the shop. The other fifty percent of the property would fall in Kavita’s lap. Besides the shop in its totality would be taken care of by herself, profits her own. Sumi had reached class seventh by now. Mr Dayal had also made all the payments concerning fees in the school till her class twelfth. Kavita could not adjust her ears with the sky crashing wealth in her lap.
From the fifth day, Kavita opened the shop, hung Mr Dayal’s portrait and adorned it with a beautiful garland. Her inspiration to life had dissolved with the ashes. She started tracing her life from the time she left her home with Sumi in her lap. She was barely twenty-two then when she was inhumanly thrown out for refusing to pressurise her father to give them a dowry. Kavita had already lost her parent’s support and husband’s was also slipping out of her hands.
In no time Kavita’s shop became more frequented by customers than ever. She renamed the shop as New Dayal’s Paradise . On the other hand, Sumi under the close guidance of Manjari turned out to be a brilliant student.
Kavita had attracted the attention of the dignitaries of Nagpur. Many made stories based on her life. The leading newspaper The Times of India also came and covered the entire story of Kavita, the way she rose from the ashes like a Phoenix. The news certainly reached far and wide with Kavita’s beaming picture. All her near and dear ones who had almost forgotten about her rejoiced in knowing about her. Sunil too read but couldn’t match the Kavita he knew and the Kavita in the front columns. In the span of ten years, he had turned haggard and lonely.
One day with collected spirits Sunil reached Kavita’s shop. Kavita was very busy dealing with the boys who were running about to appease the customers. Nothing in the shop escaped Kavita’s attention. Since the shop had turned to be a one stop shopping point, influx of gentry knew no cease. That day among the maze of movements, stood Sunil staring at Kavita with tearful eyes. He was blinded by tears of guilt and remorse, tears of over estimation of himself and under estimation of Kavita. He couldn’t believe his eyes to see the milestones that Kavita had conquered to her name.
“Yes, how can I help you? Do you need to wash your eyes? I think something is irritating your eyes”.
Sunil broke down into tears. He was swept by agony. Kavita now realising who stood in front of her felt paralytic. She lost speech and swooned. Immediately one of her workers ran home to call Manjari to handle the situation. Manjari and Sumi reached the shop huffing and puffing. It did not take long to understand the reason. With splash of water to her face, Kavita opened her eyes and continued to look at the man with disgust and contempt on one hand and that old passion of love on the other. She was debating on what she should do but Manjari and Sumi dragged her away from there. Before leaving Sumi hurled her submerged anguishes on her father and warned him never to show up again.
Sunil clasped his heart. He had not expected such a failure in the hands of Kavita. All one could hear were the scream of hatred from Sumi, moaning sound from Kavita which were drowned by the rumbling of the clouds and the endless list of questionnaires from the collected people.