The Sanjhi had finally divided our village. When the rains abated we saw the split. A wooden bridge would be built for the duration of a year so that villagers on each side could commute easily as we adjusted to our respected sides. After which we would be, and function as, two separate villages.
I reached the Gurudwara one day to find Soni wearing the dress and the earrings I had gifted her. She glowed but on closer inspection, I saw that her eyes were sad. As we went about our chores we sneaked glances and covert smiles. I couldn’t wait for later.
Our lovemaking was just like it used to be, passionate and intimate. After we were done, we lay entwined for a long time, with the night as our blanket.
As she got up her demeanor changed. I could see something was on her mind. Once we were dressed she clung to me as if she would never let me go.
‘Mainu maaf kar de Jagga.’ (forgive me, Jagga) she repeated over and over again. As she left she turned back to look at me, so many feelings flit across her face, that I felt my gut clench.
I didn’t know what to make out of it. Was she apologizing for her strange behavior? I never thought to ask.
My mother fell severely ill the next day. I had to rush her to the town where she was diagnosed with bronchitis and hospitalized. I couldn’t make it to the Gurudwara for the next two weeks. We returned to the village once she was better, but I had to stay home and take care of her. I couldn’t leave her alone at night.
It was after more than a month that I headed to the Gurudwara one afternoon. I wanted to catch Soni after her Sewa. When we usually met after the Langar, lust turned our nights turned into mornings, and no important talk got done. It was time we had a discussion about the future, and I wanted to have her full attention when we discussed it. I wanted her to be mine forever.
I reached to see the Gurudwara elaborately decorated. As I stood outside looking at the decorations in awe, someone placed a Laddoo in my hand.
‘Who is getting married?’ I asked as I ate the Laddoo in one gulp.
‘Zamindaar di’ (The Zamindar) I was informed
This was a surprise, ‘Wasn’t his wife expecting?’ I thought to myself.
Before I could ask, I saw Soni walk out of the Gurudwara. The most resplendent bride I had ever seen. Bejeweled and bedecked, head to toe in pink and weighed down in gold. Next to her was her groom, the old Zamindar.
‘His wife passed away during childbirth. A newborn child needs a mother. This old coot always had his eye on that girl anyway. Now the child has a mother and he has her’, two women behind me giggled.
My blood ran cold before it rushed to my head in all its fury. The sweet taste of the laddoo in my mouth turned bitter.
‘He brought her a new Kothi (house)’.
‘The grandest one of both the Villages.’
‘She wanted one overlooking the Sanjhi, from her side of the new village.’
‘He’s given her a lot of lands too, in her name, because she asked for it.’
‘What a lucky girl she is!’
‘He’s even brought her family a house.’
‘He’s going to get her sisters married too.’
Whispered discussions hit me from all sides like poisoned arrows. My head was reeling at the sight before my eyes and at the talk that reached my ears. I wanted to run but didn’t know where to go. I rushed home, anger spurring my steps. What had I just seen? What had happened. What had she done? Why had she done it?
I still had hope. I would make her see reason, I told myself. I reached home and saw my Rifle propped against the wall. I grabbed it and headed out once again.
Soni is mine. Soni was mine. Soni would remain mine.
As I reached the bridge I saw the marriage party proceeding on the other side of the Sanjhi.
‘Soni’, I called out. No one looked at me, the Sanjhi roaring ahead in full spate drowning out my call.
I walked closer. ‘Soni’ I yelled out again.
She looked up and paused. The entire procession paused with her.
‘Soni’, I called out once again, even louder. She continued walking like she hadn’t heard.
When I called out again the old Zamindar, her new husband, stopped and after a minute so did she. He gestured towards me asking her something.
She nodded her head slightly.
No. It looked like she said No. No to not knowing me?
My rage caused me to lift the rifle and before I realized it, I had fired.
I regretted it instantly.
I put my rifle down to check which mark my bullet had found, but nothing seemed amiss. I almost heaved a sigh of relief.
Till I saw a red stain bloom over the side of Soni’s head. She stood very still as the pink dupatta covering her bowed head turned red and just like that she crumpled to the ground. As I saw the love of my life fall to the ground, I was deafened by gunshots. More than a dozen men in the Zamindar’s wedding party were looking at me, their rifles pointing towards me. My world turned dark after that. My last thought being, why did Soni do what she did.
This is Sanjhi. We consider Sanjhi to be our mother, perhaps that is why we have forgiven her for splitting our village into two. As I sit by the river I ask myself the same questions over and over again. Why did Soni do what she did? Did Soni think I wasn’t good enough for her?
I ask questions I will never have answers to. People tell our tale, each one ending with them wondering why we did what we did.
I am Jagga. The bullet-ridden ghost of Nihala. I have been sitting by the Sanjhi for centuries now, looking for my lost love across the river that runs through keeping us away from each other.
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
Read Part 8 of the story here
Read Part 9 of the story here