Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Quizzical Eyes

………Nihung aa gaye………Nihung aa gaye………Nihung aa gaye. She heard these loud voices of children and she ran as fast as she could to get to the firni (dirt road around the village) to watch Nihings. In fact to watch the almost never ending strip of horses on which the singhs came to their village every fall. The echo of the Jaikaras was so melodious that she did not leave her place for hours, not until the last horse passed by but until she could not see the last horse either due to dusk or due to dust of the firni or both. It was the yearly event of her childhood that she looked forward to; each year. Nihungs stayed in her village for about two months and these months were full of festivity.

And Nihungs came this year too. She was no longer a little girl; something changed about her. She could tell because her mother would ask her to come home before the sun set. She was not supposed to play gulli-danda or kanche with boys any more. So this year she stood next to bunch of other girls and came home as soon as she realized it was getting dark. Jaikaras sound was still pulling her to stay there longer. She spent whole night tossing side to side. She could not wait to go see the next door neighbor who looked like and visited Nihungs. She had so much to ask, but she did not know where to begin. So next morning she quickly disappeared in neighbors home before her mother could give her chores to do.

She was leaning against the door, her head and face half-covered with her chunni, only exposing her big brown eyes. It was hard to tell, whether she was wondering about or admiring the middle-aged Guru’s Sikh who just adorned his beautiful turban with Khanda, wore kamar-kassa around his waist to secure the Kirpan that he was wearing on his blue chola. Puran Singh left in hurry without noticing this little girl, whose quizzical eyes followed him in vain.

She remembered the past years, when mother took her to Dera of Nihungs. She remembered the sound of Gurbani Akandpath, even though it did not make much sense. It was pleasure to sing dohra after Rehraas Sahib, receive the parsaad and many times stay back there for night time katha; while cuddling in mother’s shawl. She remembered faintly about ‘Amrit’ ceremony on last few days of Nihung’s stay, many boys of the village took Amrit, wore Bana like Puran Singh. She wished she could too but somehow never expressed her desire to anyone. She began to hum some dhadi dian varaan that she heard in the Diwaan. While thinking all this, she came back home. Mother was making missi roti for breakfast. She quickly took a perha in her hand, sitting next to mother, blowing air in the chulha she asked mother “Beji, shall we go to Nihung’s Dera today?” To her amazement mother said ‘No’. She could not dare to ask more questions & hence she left the kitchen & hid her face in books to hide her tears.

That same fall, she noticed ‘Chachi’ (Puran Singh’s wife) did not look too happy. Chachi was the most beautiful woman she ever saw (well….next to her own mother). Chachi was getting big each day. Though her face glowed more than ever but salwar-kameez did not fit on her any more. Puran Singh Chacha spent all his time at Dera; he was not even coming home in the evenings.

Then one day Nihungs left…..Puran Singh Chacha too. Chachi was crying all day. Women were sitting around her as if someone died. Few weeks & then months passed. Mother helped chachi with chores and often recite Gurbani in the afternoons with her. Chachi changed from a meek woman to a tigress; she not only handled house hold chores but also went to farms to oversee the farming. After few months chachi gave birth to a beautiful daughter. She named her Diler Kaur.

This was an important series of events that taught this little girl the strength that Waheguru blessed women with. Her mother taught her power of Gurbani that helped Chachi to take care of business in absence of her man. She learnt the importance of Sangat from the entire village woman, especially her own mother, who provided moral support to Chachi in her distress.

After the birth of Diler, Chacha Puran Singh came back. Chachi’s world was happy again until I came to know that Chacha Puran singh left to U.P. along with her family…. forever; leaving many of my questions unanswered; that by now moved from my quizzical eyes to my heart and made it their permanent home.