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MY DILEMMA--TWO SNAPS! -- A SHORT STORY OF DISPLACED FAMILIES

Nov 22nd 2010 at 3:21 PM

                                                              

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          MY DILEMMA--TWO SNAPS! --SHORT STORY

             I am Harvinder ---Harvinder Singh. No, you don't know me. But you would soon know me---May be you hate me after you listen to my story. Hate me?----That might be an under statement---you might like to shoot me down. My story--? You see, I am in a bit of dilemma, whether to let the cat out of the bag or let my story be kept wrapped up as it has remained till now. My heart asks me to vomit it out but brain demands a control over my emotions. It is a big confusion --I don't know what to do. Come on, don't you make fun of me---please try and understand my problem----even you would be puzzled when you have heard the full story----I bet on this----My life has become a strange story. You want a hint---Well! you can say---it is a kind of love affair which should not have happened but it did and now the truth has shattered my world.
          No, No, please this is not "Sohni-Mahiwal", "Heer-Ranjha" or "Laila-Majnu" or even "Romeo-Juliet" kind of love-tale----this is a modern day love story---but it has linkages to social ethos where this kind of love was treated as "sin" ---nay, a "grand sin". I committed this grand sin unknowingly. Whatever---sin is a sin. And by the time, I had come across this truth, a lot of water has flown in the River Satluj and River Ravi .
        I don't know who is at fault? I even don't know whether it was an 'offence' or not. Well, I leave it to you to decide. But I know, should you go by Indian social ethos---in fact, why Indian---for that matter any society---then, you are going to pronounce me a 'convict'. May be when you have fully heard the story, you might say disdainfully, " Oh, my god! what rubbish you are talking about-----damn you, what a loathsome story? ". Afterall, you are also part of the same social system.
          How can one ignore the society? One has to be concerned about your family, their principles, traditions and customs. They make a ring around you in which you have to remain confined. If you step out of this, there will, definitely be a problem. Something of this nature, I have done. It was OK as long as I didn't know. But it seems, I would now be an object of ridicule by everyone.
            Now when my mother learns the truth about Adarsh Kaur, my wife, she would almost kill herself. By the way, Adarsh Kaur is not the real name of my wife. She was Zoya Chaudhary before marriage. She had herself changed her name after marriage. She became "Adarsh Kaur" from " Zoya Chaudhary". On learning this, my mother was highly pleased. She had accepted Zoya after initial objections to my courting her. Have you now understood my problem? What do you say, " you interest has further grown" ?
         Well! they say love is blind----so, could be my love----you don't carry out investigations when you fall in love. Do you? Love is love---it works like computer programme---it does not bother for society and its stipulations. Love does not recognise religion, region, caste and creed differentiations. When it happens, love does not care for society and its relations---after all love is blind. But when real life begins, you begin to bother for the rules and relations of the society---you can not live out side. You start bothering for your relations---mother, father, brother, sister and others. It is because of this concern that I am in a conflict with my mind. And this is my dilemma. This is my problem.
           I came to know this only a few days back. Adarsh Kaur does not know it even today. Now you tell me as to how would have I known this knotty relationship? I belong to a different place---Adarsh comes from some other origin. We belong to modern era and live in a free and a liberal society. We were both working together at the same place. We became familiar. Familiarity led to close interaction. This caused mutual infatuation and affinity and so we fell in love.
          First of all, Adarsh, alias Zoya's parents strongly objected on religious lines. But we refused to toe their line. Then, they said that we belonged to two different countries who were sworn enemies----I was an Indian and she was a Pakistani girl. We rubbished this arguement too. Both of us said that we would break ties with our countries, if they objected to our marriage. 
           Precisely speaking, we turned down all arguements and got married here in USA. Then, two years had gone by when my mother Jaswant Kaur had accepted our marriage. Afterall, parents are parents. She came to USA. Happily stayed with us for a month and then went back to India. Two years after this, my wife's parents also accepted our marriage. They also stayed with us for two months. My father-in-law Mr. Inayat Ali was very happy with me.
           I have been married for nine years now. There are two children, too. But our social roots never leave you. After so many years of marriage, this truth has come like a bolt from blue. You might be bored with this trash----might not be getting head or tail of this story. A lot of questions might be coming to your mind. Is it right? 
          Are you asking as to who I was? I have already told you my name--Harvinder Singh----I have told you that I belong to India---I am highly educated---an engineer by profession----got an excellent job and keep hopping countries in connection with my profession. Well, if it interests you I am around 35 years old. My dilemma--? Oh, it is a photograph----which has become my dilemma. Must be wondering as to how a photo could cause such consternation? Ok, I would explain to you. 
             I come from Punjab State in India. I belong to a small village in SBS Nagar (Nawanshahar) district. My mother's name is Jaswant kaur and she stays with my younger brother Devinder Singh who is a Major in the Indian Army and currently posted in Junior Leaders Wing Belgaum (Karnatka).

             My father's name is Sardar Balwant Singh. I have never met him, though. It is alleged that he had left his family for better pastures in our childhood.The year might be 1975-76---I am not too sure. strangely, this was not a new thing for my mother. She had the misfortune when she was two and a half years old and her mother left her for her paramour.

             Mother never talked about this---but maternal grandfather had told us. This was around 1950 or so. Our grandfather had learnt that she had gone over to Pakistan in 1951 as her paramour had rejected her.She did write a number of letters to our mother but as informed by our grandfather our mother used to tear them and throw it away. She hated her mother and her religion. 

            It was our maternal grandfather who brought up our mother. He married again but there was no issue and second wife died in a road accident in 1969. He never married thereafter.Our mother only took care of the house hold. She loved her father so much that she never wanted to leave him and the house. This led to a tiff between our parents and one day our father left us ---never to look back again. No one knew where he had gone. He had just disappeared in the thin air.
            I graduated in Mechanical engineering in 1995 from Punjab Engineering College Chandigarh. I was picked up by PUNWIRE, an electronic company of Punjab Government. I worked there for sometimes . In 1997, I came over to USA to do my MBA from UCLA- University of Los Angeles. I finished MBA in 1999 and got employed with 'E-Bay' I am here ever since then. 
           Here, I came in contact with Zoya Chaudhary , who too was working for E-Bay. The nature of Job was such that she was working under me and daily interaction increased. She belonged to Pakistan. Slowly our interaction led to our falling for each other. When it came to marriage, the families on both sides objected but we took the command decision and got married in USA. There were angry protests by both families. There were threats from Zoya's family. But they were all empty threats. 9/11 had changed everything and reduced the importance of Pakistanis to have any leverage .They could not do anything by sitting in Pakistan.
           Then, time lapsed. Months went by---years rolled away ---suddenly my mother gave in because of her love for me. After two years of our marriage she had come to us----she had totally changed---she had accepted our marriage. She was extremely happy when my son Vikram was born. Thereafter it had become a routine for her to visit us every alternative year and we used to visit India in the following year. My mother had developed love for my wife and my son. There was nothing she held against Zoya or me. Now she stays with my younger brother In Belgaum, Karnatka. He is posted as instructor in Juniors Leaders Academy.
          We had been married for four years when Zoya's parents too mellowed down and remembered their daughter. Zoya's mother Abida Begum had rung up one day. Thereafter it became a routine and misunderstanding was removed. It was the year 2006, when Zoyya's father Chaudhary Inayat Ali and his wife Abida begum came to us in USA. They stayed with us for two months. This period was enough to know each other and we came very close.

          It was then I came to know that My father-in-Law had studied in USA at Berkley University. He had been teaching History before he went to Pakistan with his wife Begum Abida.He had stayed here for many years. He got married to Begum Abida here only. But she was already married before she married Chaudhary Inayat Ali. She had left her first husband because of mutual imcompatibility but he did not like the idea of Begum Abida marrying Inayat Ali. I was told that he was some Indian Sikh. I was not interested in the further story. She had once told me that her first husband's name was Sardar Balwinder Singh, who owned some Indian store in Fremont, San Francisco. He had troubled the duo quite a lot and that's why both had gone over to Pakistan. 
              When Zoya's parents were with us, same year my daughter Parminder was born. We all had celebrated this. In any case, Zoya's parents were so happy with us that they had bought us a new car as a gift from them. It seemed all differences had vanished and it was time to rejoice. What a great feeling it had been for last three years!

         And now, when everything was going smoothly, suddenly these two stupid PHOTOS have turned everything upset down-----It has made me sleepless. What would you have done if you were in my place? Should I divulge the truth to everyone or let it be as it is? I know you would ask me " What Truth"? Exactly, this is what is tearing me apart ---how to narrate this truth? Ok, I will tell you---but keep it with you----Be careful in telling others---
                It is like this: Some days back Zoya had returned from Pakistan. She had gone to meet her parents in Pakistan and other relations after nine years. She has returned with an album. In this album there is a photograph of Sardar Balwinder Singh with Abida Begum and Zoya. It was disclosed by Begum Abida that Sardar Balwinder was Zoya's father. Now Zoya was keen to meet him. I too said" Why Not"?
               We went to Fremont, San Francisco to meet him. We stayed in Milpitas 'Holiday Inn' hotel. Zoya developed some viral fever. Therefore I had to go alone to meet Sardar Balwinder Singh. He was not at the store but I got his home address from the girl at the counter. He lived somewhere in the Pebbles Creek community,on the Grimmer Street, near Lake Elizabeth. As I rang the bell a 24 -25 year old girl opened the door. The way she looked and the spoke in totally Americanised accent, I was doubtful if the House belonged to some Indian. 
               Anyway I told her that I had come to meet Sardar Balwinder Singh. She asked me to come in but informed me that her parents had gone to New york for some business trip. I asked her about her mother. I was told that she was Judy william ---Balwinder's third wife. I was surprised and asked about the first wife.

       "Oh, she was an Indian---an illiterate lady ----back in India. It was before dad immigrated to USA.Second wife was a Muslim, who ditched him and went over to Pakistan. I am Christina his daughter from Judy Williams. I have brother too, who is in Afghanistan---he is in the army", Christina had replied.

         " Are you in touch with your step mother in India ?", I just asked, out of sheer curiosity.

         " No, No, but I am planning to visit India after I finish my graduation----dad's first wife and two sons live in Punjab---somewhere in Jalandhar District-----Are you from Jalandhar?" she asked.

            "No" I said, " I belong to a village near Nawanshahar"

            " What ? What did you say---- Nawanshahar----Yes, Yes-- Nawanshahar---this is what dad also says. ---Wait------" saying so, she went inside and came back with an old album. She took out a snap and gave it to me and said, " Here is dad's Indian family".

            The moment I looked at the photo I was nonplussed. It was the an old black and white photo of my mother with two small children---one was definitely me-----" I was flabbergasted. But I kept mum and excused myself to come out of the house. So, Balwinder Singh was also Balwant Singh. The revelation was terribly shocking for me because it meant Zoya and me were Brother and Sister". 
             I came back to hotel and told a lie to Adarsh Kaur that Sardar Balwinder Singh did not live in Fremont and he has shifted somewhere in New York. We would find him out in New York. Thus we came back to Los Angeles. But the very thought of my relationship with Adarsh Kaur was playing havoc with my mental state----But would happen if my mother and Zoya's mother come to know of it ? I could see the storm coming. But somehow I had reconciled and decided not to tell anything to anyone about this secret. And I resolved to let it remain wrapped up with me only.
             But things never work out the way you plan. Sometimes, you learn that fate has its own course charted out. As if this photo was nothing---yesterday, I received another photo from my mother. She has sent this photo to Zoya. I have not given it to Zoya as yet. It has created a big confusion in my mind. This photo is of my mother as a child with her mother. As I looked at this photo, I instantly recognised her as Zoya's Grand mother----Her photo is there in the Album, Zoya had brought from Pakistan. My mother wants Zoya to find out this woman, called Nagma, in Pakistan. I don't know how after 58 years my mother has suddenly developed love for her long forgotten mother. I know Mother has given her the name as NAGMA--but Zoya would immediately recognise her grand mother. 
            My problem was something else---now this photo would further complicate the matter because it is established that Chaudhary Inayat Ali, Zoya's father and my mother Jaswant Kaur were also brother and Sister, through a common mother. What a complicated relationship it is becoming? I don't know how the Socialogist would describe this relationship----whether we were brother and sister from Father's side or first cousins from my Mother's side or we were just husband and wife because of our children?

          How to cope up with this storm which is building in our otherwise well settled lives. I would have just ignored the whole thing---but for Christina's plans to go to India next year. Should I have a frank talk with her and dissuade her from going to India and thus hide this truth from everyone? Should I reveal the truth to every one and run the risk of ruining my well set married life-----I am confused--terribly confused. Would you help me and tell me a way out-----Please?

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 NOTE: This story is in sequel to my story of "Nagma" which is based on real life incidents spread over some 60 years. Two parts had appeared earlier. The story is based on the incident in the backdrop of partition. It is a moving account of displaced families, lost roots and and complicated social relations out of displaced and misplaced identities. To understand the story bettter, you would have to read previous parts too. If you are keen, here are the links:-  

 

        Nagma's Bangles-Part One: http://rajee.sulekha.com/blog/post/2009/09/nagma-s-bangles-story-in-the-womb-of-partition.htm

        Nagma's Bangles- Part Two: http://rajee.sulekha.com/blog/post/2009/09/nagma-s-bangles-part-two.htm

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