MY WEDDING WITHOUT A PAITHANI
A Short Story
Priya Sidharth Sethi
Copyright © 2015 Priya Sidharth Sethi
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Paithani is a silken gold embroidered sari having its origin from Paithan, a town in Maharashtra, India. This piece stands high among the most precious and celebrated textiles of India. The Paithani, in a Maharashtrian household is considered auspicious and worn on occasions like marriages. A typical Paithani is woven in silk and jari (golden thread) with complicated patterns of mythical swans and peacocks. The Peshwas, the titular equivalent of a modern ‘Minister’ during the Maratha Empire had a great fascination for the Paithani textiles.
From between the steep racks of colorful saris stepped out the man we eagerly waited for. Like a trapeze artist, he walked carefully balancing the heaps of saris in both hands. On reaching his destination, which was to stand in front of us, he dropped them all on a chalky
dropped them ng, he walked carefully balancing the
off in one go on the chalky mattresses lined up on the floor. We instantly blinked to adjust to the bright and gaudy colours scattered before us. The turquoises, crimsons, violets, magentas and fluorescent yellows illuminated the showroom under the special LED lights. These colours, they were too bright for my taste, but the ladies with me, sorry to call them ladies, actually my mother on my left and my mausi sitting on my right along with few others surrounding us, echoed a chorus of, “aaaahhhh…”
“That’s what we have been looking for…..hai na Rasika?” gleamed my mother. I just nodded in response without even lifting my head to acknowledge the sea of fabrics before us, and frankly speaking, now I feel, I should have, as the efforts were taken just for me. I was the one getting married that September. Before visiting this sari showroom, I remember arguing with my mother, “but there is still time, it’s just July!” Though I don’t blame her for her enthusiasm layered with anxiety.
We, that is, our family, were the so called decedents of ‘the Peshwas’ of Pune. And I, Rasika Pingle, was the first daughter in my generation, getting married. What better occasion to show off than this one! So, according to my mother, it was already late.
“Rasika! We are here for you; now stop chatting with Aniruddh, bear with us for two more months and then you happily chat with him forever, kyun Sulbha”. Sulbha, my mother’s sister and my only mausi burst into soft giggles. “Okaaay…” I lifted my neck reluctantly and confirmed, “…I am not chatting with Aniruddh…” I was about to jump into explanations, of who and why and when, but thankfully the sales man intervened. All of us scanned him from head to toe. Within no time, this man, in front of us had converted himself into a model, with two saris draped! The turquoise pallu on his left shoulder and crimson on his right. Instead of looking at the saris I was busy rewinding those four seconds of the salesman’s draping technique. This two minute model for my mum and other ladies was now showing his profile alternating between the turquoise and the crimson, waiting for my reaction.
“Rasika, say something dear.”
“Bekar! I don’t like any of these.” The salesman’s face dropped at my disappointment.
“Tai, kay dakhvu? Tai, these are the best collections you would get in Pune.”
“Show me something exclusive…I don’t like the usual bright and gaudy jari work saris.”
However, he did not seem to understand my choice. The routine continued for the next half an hour – he draped and I rejected. The ladies by now conveniently ignored my decisions and shortlisted almost a dozen saris, mostly for themselves and as gifts for Aniruddh’s family.
That day when Aniruddh came to my house with his parents to discuss our wedding, my mother had mentally planned and perhaps, also designed a sari for my would-be mother-in-law. From that day, almost after six months of wait, she was now happily showing ‘the sari’ of the function. Yes, a sari gifted to your mother-in-law, is of great importance! I nodded asserting to the golden and maroon Kanjivaram she chose.
I knew Aniruddh’s mother as ‘aunty’ before she became, the dreaded word, ‘mother-in-law’. Ours was a typical love story of college sweethearts deciding to get married after few years of dating. And the transition from ‘aunty’ to ‘Aai’ (the Marathi word for ‘mother’) was a gradual process which took almost five years since we started dating.
The day when Aniruddh formally proposed, just after we submitted our final thesis in Pune University, came as a shock to me. I always anticipated that he would propose one day and our relationship would definitely reach a logical end…or so to say ‘beginning’. But that day, in the university car park, when I was about to ride off home on my moped! No! I had visualized it very differently in my mind. Never mind. So…. he asked…
“Rasika Pingle…would you like to change your name to ‘Rasika Aniruddh Damle’?”
And for a moment, I was tongue tied. Was he proposing? Now? In this fashion? I am sitting on my scooter with the ignition on, about to bid him good bye for the day, my face is covered with a scarf which allows Aniruddh just to locate the slits of my eyes…and he is proposing for marriage! My heart sank for a moment. I wanted to rip open my scarf and yell at him…Aniruddh! How can you be so unromantic…but chose to avoid a conflict. I still remember my words,
“Sweetie…that is so nice of you. Let’s meet in the evening.” However, Aniruddh did not stop there.
“So is it a ‘yes’!” he asked like a hungry puppy. My plan failed. I thought he might take the hint and arrange something better for the evening. But nope; he was in a hurry.
“Of course it is a ‘yes’. How can I refuse?” He was happy to receive my muffled response from the scarf. And that’s it. The proposal was over. In the next two minutes, we went in opposite directions to our respective homes.
That is how the whole discussion of my marriage started six months back. On the same day of my ‘unromantic proposal’, I went straight to the study on the left corner of our bungalow. The light was dim, and my father was engrossed with his paper work on the table. Usually, he did not like being disturbed while at work. But me going up to him, no, that was not disturbance, it was an exception. I decided to be straight forward and went directly to the topic to be discussed.
“Papa, Aniruddh wants to marry me.” I waited for his reaction. Aniruddh was a known name in my house due to his occasional visits and rapport with my mother. Obviously, even my parents had seen it coming. He turned and looked at me with a smile.
“Hmmm…. finally. ‘Damle’ right? He is Purushottam Damle’s son….whose bungalow is near Pashan area? ” he asked.
“Yes” I said.
“Shalini knows about this?” Shalini, my mother.
“Of course she does. I told her in the afternoon.” I confessed.
“So, what did she say?”
“She asked me to talk to you, but was very happy. In the heart of hearts, she wanted this to happen.”
“Very true. Good. I am happy for you Rasika.”
Purushottam Damle, ‘uncle’, as I used to address him and still do, even today, was a known name in Pune. Even the drastic turn of events has, thankfully, not hampered our relationship till date. Coming back to Damle uncle, the new high rise buildings, in east Pune were thanks to him. Papa was happy. His daughter had chosen a good match for herself.
It was celebration time in my house. Papa decided to announce the news in a grand manner, so to say the ‘Peshwa’ style. Mumma was as usual worried regarding the arrangements she had to make for our typical grand family dinner the very next day. But that was usual. I was assigned the job of inviting everyone for ‘the announcement’ in the family.
My father, Yashwant Pingle, the eldest amongst the four brothers took utmost pride in honing the title of ‘head of the family’. Any event, any function, any festival was always celebrated in my house. That day, the huge dining table, like other family dinners in our house was set perfectly by our ‘Help’ under Mum’s instructions. Oversize brass plates with six katoris lined up properly in each one. And no spoons. We ate with our hands and were taught to eat with them without keeping a morsel on the fingers once we were done.
Sharp at eight in the evening, the plates had virtually no empty space left in them. Starting with a pinch of salt, graduating to papad and pickles and ending with five kinds of sweets! Me, the first and the eldest daughter in the family getting married was a big thing! Almost twenty guests arrived with question marks on their faces. The reason for the dinner was not divulged yet. I am sure everyone must have thought about it the preceding night.
Is dada starting a new venture? Or is he planning to sell one the ancestral property in Paithan or Kolhapur? Or is Rasika getting engaged? No doubt, my marriage was anticipated.
On finishing the prayer at the table, my father began;
“Our daughter, Rasika, has wisely chosen to take the plunge and start an important phase in her life! She has accepted the proposal by her long time friend, Aniruddh Damle!”
I blushed as my relatives cheered. The night was filled with questions and answers. When, where, how…etc etc. Thankfully, the details of how Aniruddh proposed were not asked! I had decided that if they were, I would dodge the question and give some vague answers. But I was saved. So, that is how my wedding became official which gave an impetus to something my mother always wanted to do. My wedding shopping!
Coming back to the showroom, still, I was not impressed. By now even the salesman had lost interest. Finally, he sat down on the mattress and pushed almost hundred saris on his left to make a heap out of them and called out for his junior.
“He gheun ja, take them away….tai does not like any of these.” Turning towards me, he came closer which made my Mum a bit uncomfortable. He said in a low tone.
“Tai; I have something really exclusive for you. It is custom made, as in ‘made-to-order’ ‘Paithani’. Would you like to see it? Boss makes it only for a select few customers.” I looked at Mum. She was already trying to gauge my reaction. The salesman continued, “It’s a bit on the expensive side, but you won’t….” Before he could complete the sentence my mother beamed in. “Money is not a problem….Cheej pasand aani chahie…show it.”
In a jiffy, he vanished behind the tall racks. We silently waited for our surprise. Out came our salesman who at that precise moment was keenly watched to be like a magician carrying a box of goodies. He placed the beautifully decorated metal box on the white mattress and started fiddling with its locks. The suspense was rising by every second he wasted in opening that box. But like an anti-climax, I spoke,
“Oho, what is so special about this one, just open it quickly and show it.”
And out came a beautiful piece of jet black silk with pure gold weaved all over. Yes it was truly exclusive. Our ‘magician’ now was carefully opening the fabric to reveal its worth fold after fold. It was truly ‘wow’! A magnificent piece! Surprisingly, it was not a typical Paithani with a pattern of peacocks dancing on the border and the pallu. But it had peacock feathers weaved in and integrated on the borders, pallu and in patterns all over the sari. The feathers looked so real! Almost after forty-five minutes of discarding all the Kanjivarams, Narayanpethis and the Banarasis, this innovative ‘Paithani’ clicked! I got on to the mattress from the short stool where I was sitting all this while to feel the soft silk of black and gold. Holding the fabric between my thumb and middle finger was an attempt to make out whether the feathers were real. And suddenly, our magician who had once again turned into a humble salesman intervened.
“Tai! Careful, these are real peacock feathers decorated with Swarovski diamonds. It’s too delicate, I request you not to touch it. It takes almost a month to weave such a piece.”
I dropped it instantly. To clarify our doubts, he held the sari in sunlight. He was right! Indeed, they were real feathers, which glowed as the sun rays passed through them. There was silence. The show was over and now it was my turn to decide.
“I want this one! With exactly the same pattern, colours and also these stones!”
“Tai, it will take one month, you will have to order it.”
“That’s okay, you can take the order now.” I told him.
“How much is it for?” asked my mother.
“It depends on your piece; this one is for one lac.”
“What! One lac!” my Mum’s face turned white in disbelief.
“Yes madam, the jari, all over, is made of real gold wires, the stones are Swarovski, and the feathers are real peacock feathers! It has to be costly!” explained the salesman.
Mother got up from her stool and told him to pack the shortlisted saris. I kept looking at her and whispered,
“But I really like this one…lets atleast book it!”
“It’s too costly, we must ask Yashwant.” argued my mother.
“Oh ho…Papa will not refuse…I am sure.”
“Hmmm…but still we should ask him once.”
Today, sitting here in my office, I cannot imagine I made such a hue and cry about my wedding sari. But yes, I must admit, that it was my stubbornness to have that sari which changed my life forever. It almost took a u-turn and I started looking at my life differently, in a more mature manner. So, this is how it all started.
By the time we reached home, I had already exhausted all the reasons of convincing my mother of why I wanted to be the customized bride on the ‘D – Day’. She was almost convinced, and now the only part remaining was our financier’s decision. I knew Papa will not say no. And why would he? His daughter’s wish, that too for her wedding, was of utmost importance. I knew my father. I got an assertive ‘Yes’ from him, in no time.
However, there was one problem, my grandmother. As I described my sari on the dinner table, she listened carefully and nodded her head signifying a ‘No’. With food in her mouth, which she took long to chew, there was no way I could ask her for an explanation for the next two minutes. I just kept looking at her with a frown on my face. Now why was she saying no! “Aajji! Why….why are you saying ‘no’? You know it’s beautiful. Black and gold…and it has got jari…”
“What colour is it?” she finally asked.
“Black and gold.” I confirmed. She turned her attention to my mother who had just finished her dinner and was washing down her last bits with water.
“Shalini! How could you allow her to buy her wedding sari in ‘black’! Rasika, beta, you don’t buy and wear black fabric for any auspicious occasion.”
Oh! So the colour was the problem. But the colour black was the most attractive thing about it.
“Ajji please, I really like it.” I argued.
“No Rasika, she is right. This thing just slipped from my mind. Okay…why don’t you take it in some different colour?” suggested my mother.
“No black looks the best. Plus I don’t like the typical bright colours”
“Okay then you try something in cream or off-white” That was my grandmother’s opinion. By now, Papa had left the kitchen. His role ended when he gave the green signal on the money part. So the other things, which he must have thought were stupid, and now actually, even I think were quite silly on my part, were of no interest to him.
“Hmmm. Okay, beige and gold will also look good. I will go there tomorrow to place the order.”
Next day I was the first customer in ‘Mayuri Showroom’ at ten in the morning. The manager’s daily routine of pooja and filling the showroom with the agarbatti smoke took almost fifteen minutes. But I waited patiently. By that time even our salesman, Kashinath had arrived. He recognized his customers and greeted us.
“Tai, namaste! Are you here to place the order?”
“Yes! But I want some changes made.”
“Okay. You speak to Sir regarding the changes. Come.” Kashinath escorted me and my mother to his cabin. Coffee was served and the discussion began.
“Did you see the black paithani we have right now in the show room? It is one of the finest pieces.”
“Yes but we did not like the colour, we want it in cream.” said my mother.
“No beige.” I clarified.
“What is the difference?” she asked getting irritated.
“Actually madam if you have a specific colour and pattern in mind, I would suggest you should speak to our designers who actually work with the weavers. They have a better idea of what pattern looks better with which colour and also the placement of the feather design, which is our specialty!
“I don’t mind. When can I meet them?” I asked enthusiastically.
“They are here in Pune showroom every last week of the month. So if you place your order by 25th of this month, your piece will be ready by 30th of next month.” explained the manager.
“No, that would be too late” said my mother “is there no other way out?”
The manager thought for a while. According to him, the designers will be in the factory with the weavers till the end of the month. Our next obvious solution was to go to the factory. We presumed that it would be in Pune. But we were wrong.
“Madam, the factory is in Paithan, not here.”
“Paithan” I exclaimed.
“Yes, the best and authentic weavers of the Paithani are still in Paithan. Some of them work exclusively for us. Our showroom in Paithan is mostly visited by our customers from the metros. If you want to order before the end of this month, I will give you the address.”
I thought, why not, Paithan is not that far. It would be a day trip. Then a brilliant idea popped up in my mind. I decided I will go there with Aniruddh, after all even he should be there for my sari selection, was the explanation I gave at home. Papa was not willing to send me alone with Aniruddh. But as always, I was able to convince him. It was decided, we would go to Paithan on the coming Tuesday. Now came my turn to tell Aniruddh. As usual, he refused at first.
“But tell me the reason why you are refusing to come with me? We would get the much needed space and it will also be fun to see a new place! I have never been to Paithan…and it is not very far from Pune…just two hundred kilometers. Come on….don’t be a bore…”
Aniruddh was unaffected by my pleadings. He was busy stuffing his mouth with bhurji pav at Café Durga. I noticed he consumed his pav faster just to show that his mouth was full which hindered him to respond. Anyway, that was an old trick of his, but I was hell bent. As he opened his mouth to order for one more pair of pav….I continued…
“Aniruddh, please say something..”
“Have you gone nuts Rasika? Going all the way to Paithan for a stupid sari!”
“How dare you call it stupid! It is my wedding sari…it has to be special.”
“And this horrible habit of yours to make plans without considering my schedule….you are really getting on my nerves.” said Aniruddh.
“Why do you have such a detached attitude towards this wedding? Sometimes I really doubt your intentions.”
“Oh come on…now stop this behavior analysis. You should have asked me before making this plan. That too on a Tuesday? I have work.”
“You think I am crazy? I have already spoken to Damle Uncle. He said there is nothing important that day in office, so you can come.”
“Rasika! Now are you going to directly take permissions from Papa! You are incorrigible. Kiti jhale?” He turned his attention to the waiter standing beside our table with the bill in his hand.
“I know that…chalo.” I got up from the plastic chair pulling his hand.
“Areee…let me pay atleast.”
That Tuesday morning looked beautiful as it rained the night before. I was ready at five in the morning in my black leggings and red kurta sipping ginger tea on our dining table. Aniruddh stepped in my house in military shorts and a black T, half an hour late.
“Come beta. Here have some tea.” That was my grandmother.
“Thank you ajji.”
“Select a good colour okay Rasika…no black…I hope you remember.”
“Ho ajji. Don’t worry.”
“And don’t be late. Have you taken your cell phone? Is it charged?”
“Yes.” I confirmed.
“Don’t worry aunty, we will be back by evening, probably before that.” asserted Aniruddh.
“Why don’t you take Manoj with you…it will be better.” My mother suggested to take our driver with us. Thankfully, we refused in chorus. “No no.” She gave a mischievous smile and dismissed the idea.
Aniruddh’s silver sedan was comfortable and clean filled with fragrance of his trademark perfume. “Do you spray your perfume in the car as well” I asked while scanning the music on his I-pod. He did not answer as he set up the GPS. After half an hour of silence, Aniruddh spoke.
“Rasika…what is so special about this so called customized sari?”
I started the description with full enthusiasm adding special effects with my palms, “It has real gold weaved in it, real pearls and Swarovski diamonds for decoration. And the best part is….actual peacock feathers are weaved in on the border and pallu. Is so exquisite that…”
“Okay okay….I understood. But why Paithan?”
“Good question” I smiled mockingly, “….because the designers won’t be in Pune till weekend. They are with the weavers in Paithan. And if I place the order next month, it would be too late.”
“Hmmm” nodded Aniruddh.
“So…now are you convinced that this was the only way out for me?”
At last; I knew he was forced into this, but come on, one small favour for his would-be bride. At nine fifteen in the morning we crossed a big statue of Sant Dyaneshwar which marked our entry to the city of Paithan. The laid back town was still getting ready for the day. The only occupants on the road were newspaper vendors, and tea sheds with few customers each. We were hungry. At the end of that road we found a vendor selling fresh poha (Maharashrtian breakfast) and pakodas.
“What is the name of your showroom?” asked Aniruddh.
“Mayuri Saris – it’s near the Dyaneshwar Park.”
The aroma of fresh lime and coriander on our steaming hot poha was extremely tempting. The hawker handed out two leaf plates overflowing with our humble yet tasty breakfast.
“Why are you looking for ‘Mayuri Saris’ today? All the shops are closed today.” informed the hawker.
“What! Why?” I asked in desperation. I did not even dare to look at Aniruddh, though I could predict the frown on his face and anger in his eyes.
“Tai, Tuesday is the weekly off in Paithan.”
Yes, that was awful news and I cursed myself for not enquiring beforehand. Now what? Shall we go back, or what if I call the showroom in Pune. While my brain sprinted to find out a solution, the hawker gave us a valuable update.
“Bhau, you check if their factory is open. It is behind the showroom. It is possible the weavers are working today.”
“Brilliant! Let’s go Aniruddh.”
We finished our breakfast and headed towards the showroom. So irritated was Aniruddh that he chose to remain silent till we reached a huge showroom with a closed shutter. We parked our car before the locked iron main gate and stood under the banner named ‘Mayuri Saris’ There was no sign of any guard or a watchman near the closed iron gate. Aniruddh, while trying to look for the missing guard came across a small alley on our right. It was quite narrow filled with fresh weeds of grass due to rains. We went through the lane and voila – we were inside the compound of Mayuri Saris. On the back side of the same locked showroom. The lane which we took ended up before their workshop.
I wish we had missed that lane…if we had straight gone home looking at the closed showroom, I would not be sitting here in my office today. Anyway…everything happens for a reason, and this too was destined.
Coming back to rear side of this grand showroom, on a filthy looking muddy ground was another shed. Probably it was the workshop which that hawker mentioned. It was the total opposite of what we saw at the front gate. The shutter of the workshop was also shut but strangely it was not locked.
“See…even this is closed. Rasika, you should have enquired before coming.” said Aniruddh breaking his silence after a long time.
“I know baby. It just slipped from my mind. Being a weekday I never thought it would be closed. Now what?” I confessed.
“Now what….nothing! Let’s go back.
Turning our backs to the dirty looking unlocked workshop we headed towards the same narrow lane from where we entered. At that precise moment there was a piercing screeching sound. It was quite loud which forced us to stop and look around.
“What was that Aniruddh?”
“Don’t know…leave it…lets go.” He said pushing me forward.
Again the same screeching sound, this time with much more intensity. It sounded as if someone was craving for help. I turned and started going towards the sound. Aniruddh kept pulling me back, but I was determined to find out what was the commotion all about. As I approached the warehouse shed, the screams intensified. Now they were so loud that I felt like covering my ears. I was damn sure they were coming from the workshop’s unlocked shutter. By now even Aniruddh followed as he was unsuccessful in taking me out of the compound of Mayuri Saris.
We stood facing the closed unlocked shutter which had gathered dust covering the name written on it. The intermittent high pitched screams continued. I lifted my left hand to knock on it, and BAM! A loud sound like a mini explosion reverberated the place. We ducked down and looked at each other. Aniruddh was visibly scared as well as angry. Only after few seconds we realized the screeching had stopped.
“What was that?” I whispered. We still squatted down as we were unsure of the events happening around us.
“It sounded like a gunshot” confirmed Aniruddh.
“My God! Something heinous is happening behind that shed. We have to do something Aniruddh.” While I waited for Aniruddh’s consent to again knock on the shutter, a shiver ran down my spine as I felt something warm under my chappals. I watched my feet immersed in blood with horror. A steady stream of blood was oozing from under the closed shutter!
“Fuck! Let’s get out of here Rasika!”
I froze at that very spot unable to move. We could hear a lot of movement from inside the shed. Suddenly, something happened within me and I started banging the shutter like a maniac.
“Get out! Get out! Stop it…please…” I screamed. But my cries were not answered. I suppose there was too much noise inside the shed for them to hear my screams and thumps on the shutter.
Aniruddh caught hold of me from my waist and pulled me fiercely towards him. He tried to shut me up by forcibly covering my mouth with his palm, but I continued. Something wrong was happening and I had to stop it. With blood shot eyes he told me to stop shouting. But I continued. He had managed to pull me a few meters back when the shutter opened with a shuddering sound. I managed to free myself from Aniruddh’s tight clutch and fled towards the shed. He came running to stop me, but now it was too late.
I stood just outside the shed unable to enter it. It was a ghastly sight we never ever imagined to witness. The filthy floor was filled with blood and blood stained peacock feathers! In the center of the shed lay three dead peacocks slaughtered inhumanly. Two men stood in that dirt, one engaged in pulling feathers from the dead birds and one standing in front of us showing his back, with a country-made pistol facing towards the floor. I felt nauseated witnessing the whole scene.
Unexpectedly, the man standing with the pistol realized he had audience and turned towards us. At first, being an amateur he was bewildered, but within a fraction of a second he changed the direction of his pistol. His trembling hands were trying hard to find the trigger. I freaked out and attempted to locate Aniruddh’s hand behind me without moving the gaze from our predator. My lungs were craving for oxygen as my heart pounded wildly. Where the hell was Aniruddh! Instead of touching any flesh my palms were catching air behind me. Now the second predator stopped pulling feathers from the slaughtered bird and charged towards us.
This was crazy. The unimaginable was happening with me. There was no option left but to run for my life. I ran with all my might. Still Aniruddh was missing. Fortunately, I missed the bullet fired which shattered into a tree outside the shed. While running I noticed Aniruddh leaving his hideout. He hid behind that tree, the same tree which took the bullet in its trunk and saved me. And something strange happened.
Now when I think of it, it was strange, ideally anyone would have ran up to the love of her life, at such a difficult time, but we….both of us ran in opposite directions.
Aniruddh noticed me but ran towards the lane from which we entered and I on the other hand sprinted in the opposite direction towards the rear end of the shed. We split and so did the duo. I don’t know which one came behind me, the one with the pistol or one without. Whoever he was, he was not able to locate me for the next one hour. Behind the shed, in the same compound there were huge tin sheets stacked towards the wall. It was mucky as I squatted behind them. The wet soil slush had found a place deep in my blood stained foot nails. I cursed myself for not wearing my sneakers. But hell, everything was going wrong since morning. I thought of calling Papa. No please….this was the last thing I wanted that morning, my rear pocket was empty. I checked the other one. Nope, my phone was missing! Perhaps I dropped it while running for my life. Shhhh….I could hear footsteps through the slush. My predator stood before me but I was well hidden. There was no chance he could see me. He unexpectedly started talking, I think over the phone.
“Boss, the couple escaped” he confirmed. “I saw that boy speeding away in a silver sedan, but could not read the number” He sounded apologetic. It was not a shock for me. I had predicted that Aniruddh would leave without me when he ran towards that narrow lane. It was a testing time of our relationship and both of us miserably failed in it. Instead of being together in this time of crisis, we chose to take different paths to save ourselves.
I remained squatted behind the tin sheets for atleast an hour after the man speaking on the phone left. On gathering all the strength, I stealthily came out from that dark damp place keeping one hand on my nose. The stench of urine and dirt was still lingering in my nostrils. Now what? With low energy levels, even my brain had slowed down. I had to hurry, get out of that Mayuri Saris compound. I directed my steps towards the narrow lane as that was the only way out that I knew of and I was in no mood to explore more. That two minute walk was the most difficult in my life. It is difficult to describe the mixed emotions I was going through – fear, anger, desperation, exhaustion – everything mixed with each other and I did not know which one to express.
Finally, I was on the main road again facing the closed shutter of Mayuri Saris. Across the road was a small market place. Finding a public phone was not difficult. Infact after surviving a bullet, now I feel nothing is difficult. Anyway, I dialed Papa and waited for an answer. There was no time for details and I just told him to arrange a car for me. Aniruddh was sane enough to inform my parents about the crisis. Actually they were waiting for my call. Having one of the ancestral properties in Paithan, he had a few contacts. Within the next fifteen minutes I was heading to Pune, without my Paithani. That day I swore to stop this peacock slaughter and do something for homeless, distressed and injured birds and animals.
My office where I sit today, and pen down my story, which changed my life for the good, is a Non-governmental Organization, by the name ‘Mayur Pankh’. Guess who supported me throughout this venture with funds, donations and aids….of course my father did, but equal share was that of Damle Uncle.
What happened to me and Aniruddh? Yes, you guessed it right, we broke up but to remain good friends. I think we were too suffocated in our relationship. It was not a split second decision; we sat together with our families and thought it to be best for us both. No hard feelings!
What happened to Mayuri Saris? It’s closed for life and so are their signature Paithanis with real peacock feathers.
It’s work time now, my shelter on one of our properties in Pune is a loving and a comfortable home for my kids……six peacocks, two cows, one bull and four dogs, all rescued, given medical help and now looked after by my Organization. The number keeps increasing every month and so do my kind hearted and compassionate volunteers who keep helping me occasionally….one regular volunteer being…yes, you guessed it right… Aniruddh!
This is my wedding with my office, with my birds, with my animals, with my duty and that too, without a ‘Paithani’.
Thank you for reading the story. Though this is a fictional tale, it is a fact that peacock slaughter is rampant in India. India’s national bird is killed for its feathers which are used for making decorative articles and religious items. In the name of God or for decorative purposes, these beautiful feathers which look good only on the birds are pulled off their bodies. Their increasing demand is the prime reason behind killing these birds. A dedicated drive and awareness can save the fast vanishing beauty or else it will remain confined to the picture of lord Krishna.
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With Warm Regards,
Priya Sidharth Sethi
Tai – elder sister
Mausi – Mother’s sister
Bekar – Useless
Jari – golden thread used for weaving
Aai – Mother
Dada – Elder Brother
Ajji – Grandmother
Agarbatti – Incense sticks
Bhurjee Pav – Snack made of egg and bread
Bhau – Brother
Mayur Pankh – Peacock feather
Chalo – Let’s go
Kiti jhale – How much