A few months passed by in much the same manner, and just when Soni and I were settling into a comfortable routine, news arrived that the Government people would be coming in to mark the village for the split.
Even though we villagers knew this would happen, and that we would be taken care of by the Government, there was chaos everywhere. Another council meeting had to be called urgently, where we were told to maintain decorum and let the officials do their job without any disruption.
The villagers were well behaved after that, silently watching the group of officials going about their work with their strange equipment. Some villagers even followed them around everywhere, much to the annoyance of the officials.
After a month of planning and marking, our village Nihala was finally split into two, on paper and on land. The path for Sanjhi’s new course would have to be cleared and the houses in the way would have to be vacated and lands abandoned, to save lives, we were informed.
The next 3 months saw a lot of shuffling and resettling. Luckily for me my house and lands were away from the new path of the Sanjhi and my mother and I didn’t have to move.
I was frustrated. I had no idea where Soni lived. Whenever I had asked her about it in the past she evaded the question every time. She was absent for her bi-weekly Sewa and at the Langar at the Gurudwara too, and I assumed it was due to the chaos happening in the village, so we couldn’t meet there either. I wondered where she was and what she was doing. I had no way to get in touch with her and this was making me restless.
I continued going to the Gurudwara as I used to, with the hope of meeting her there. One day my patience was finally rewarded. Just as I finished sweeping the langar hall, I looked up to see Soni. She looked gaunt and exhausted and not like her usual self. Since there were a lot of people present we couldn’t speak to each other immediately. We went through our Langar duties silently, our eyes connecting each time we passed each other, mine questioning and hers evasive.
As soon as we were done, we walked out together and headed to our sanctuary, the banyan tree. We sat in silence for a long while, with her subdued sobs studding it. I let her cry. I wanted her tears to wash away all her sadness. She finally stopped crying and told me they had lost their house.
That crumbling structure they considered home was the only roof over their head, which wasn’t even theirs, to begin with. It belonged to an Uncle who had allowed them to live there. When the government promised to compensate him for it, he chose to take the handsome amount of money in lieu of the house and left them stranded.
Where were she, her mother, and sisters living now, I wanted to know.
There was a shame all over her face as she bowed her head and said, ‘In the Zamindar’s servant’s quarters.
This post is a part of the Blogchatter Half Marathon.
I am writing A Fictional Short story – A River Runs Through It – for this challenge.
Read Part 1 of the story here
Read Part 2 of the story here
Read Part 3 of the story here
Read Part 4 of the story here
Read Part 5 of the story here
Read Part 6 of the story here
Read Part 7 of the story here