DEE - A short story
The multi-hued butterfly with a designer pattern of crimson and purple half-moons painted within a set of geometrically intersecting lines on its wings, flew into the room through the open window and lightly settled on the settee and folded up its wings. Freshly dressed in a pretty pink and white school dress, the girl coming out from the adjacent bathroom settled on her bed and noticed the butterfly allow itself entry into her abode that she thought was all hers. But she did not resent its presence at all, the way she would have if it was any human being. She was just 13 and already hated all humans, males in particular. She wanted to pick up the winged insect and fondle it in her soft hands but was aware she may injure it in the process. All she did was to stare at it and admire its vivid colors that shone bright in the early morning sun filtering through the partly open nylon curtains of the window. She kept watching it until it took flight and wandered inside the room looking out for an exit route that it did not find. Tired after some time the butterfly landed itself on her hands and this sent a mild shiver of excitement down her spine. She wanted to kiss it but held back for fear of hurting it, like the way she was hurt all these years of her life. Only the first five years had been so lovely and fun filled as her father doted on her and her mother spoiled her with her overwhelming love. “Come on down Dee, breakfast is ready”, she heard her younger brother call and she quietly went to the window and allowed the butterfly glide out watching it spread its wings as it took flight. She wished she could fly too and get away from this stinking rat-hole of a home, well at least she thought it to be so.
Divya found her family waiting for her at the dining table and her little six year old brother was ready with his pranks as soon as he sighted her. She suddenly felt a surge of anger at his pretty face and in the process of seating herself in the dining chair, away from the little one, she missed the seat and landed at the edge that toppled the chair and she had a nasty fall. This enraged her even further. It was he who called her Dee and the name stuck. When quite young he was unable to speak the word Di-Di, meaning sister, that his parents wanted him to call her and yet everyone in the family kind of liked the way he pronounced his sister’s name - Dee. She had in fact lost her own mother at age five and within the year her father remarried and gave her a brother whose entry in the house changed everything for her. She had already lost her mother’s love and care and now she lost the attention of her father who diverted all his affection to her brute brother. Her new mother was kind of nice to her, but the young prankster in the house was beyond the control of any one and played hard with her all the time. The difference in the attitude of her father had made her draw into her own shell and her interaction with anyone inside or outside was almost negligible. She did not invite any confidence in her step-mother nor did she have friends at school or in the neighborhood. She had no one with whom she could share her feelings and not even at times when the adulthood brought in physiological changes that she found uncomfortable at times, particularly when she found spots on her underwear that had frightened her. She was desperate to take control of things her way and determined to do it right away.
Things had gone a little too far and she wanted to assert herself.
Living in a small town was by no means a mean feat to assert your rights when you lived among the high and mighty of your society. The problem was that everybody knew everything about everybody. Professor Raina was basically a gentle person and he had one more thing going against him when it came to retaining his position in the social circle where they belonged now - he was a newcomer to the locality. It was a decision he had to take in order to satisfy his physical need. He had landed up at Solan in Himachal Pradesh after he married the second time, a girl from this area who was adamant that they settle down here as her father owned properties there and could easily afford to allow them free access to the bungalow where they lived presently. She was an only child and her father was a seasoned politician and elected to the state assembly from the constituency at Solan but he kept residence at Shimla for his own convenience. Professor Raina met the girl at Chandigarh where he worked as a college professor and she was his colleague there. After a brief courtship the decision to marry was not difficult and for the girl to have a daughter from an earlier marriage did not bother her as long as the man was under her influence. He had lost his wife only a year back and desperately needed a partner to share a lifetime with. The prospect of living a life all alone did not please his conscience as he could hardly do without a support to look after his daughter. And there was no reason to hang on to the memory of a dead person even though he had loved her as he now loved the newcomer in his life. His daughter was five when she lost her mother to a dreaded disease which she courageously fought for two years at the PGI at Chandigarh.
He was there after having come over from Kashmir in 1980 under unusual circumstances.
Kapil Raina and Kundan Koul were buddies right from school until both did their graduation at Srinagar from the same college. Later they undertook a post-graduation course in Chemistry and Physics respectively at the Punjab University at Chandigarh followed by B.Ed. degree from the Teachers Training College at Srinagar, with a view to take up teaching as a career. They were both good in their studies and both had the same dreams as they grew up in the downtown locality of Srinagar. They had many things in common and their friendship was known to both their families besides the fraternity they shared at school and elsewhere. After studies both took up job as teachers in two different secondary schools in Srinagar but made sure they spent quality time together after school hours. At some point of time they got married and were living a happy life until tragedy struck for Kapil who was told that his wife could not conceive due to a malfunction in her ovaries. Kundan was overwhelmed with grief by this news and promised Kapil that he would get him a child, no matter what he had to do for that. And on his own he was just planning to get him a child from an orphanage or elsewhere and someone with a good bloodline. The matter was discussed by their families as well and after persuasion by Kundan they both agreed to this proposal as both families did not like Kapil to live without a child for the rest of his life. But things took a turn when Kundan’s wife delivered twins after three months of this incident and the friends decided to share the love of their babies together and take one each from the two daughters and this made fulfilment of a promise easy for Kundan.
There was, however, a problem they were identical twins.
After much thought and discussion on the subject it was decided that they both live in separate towns as it was not good for the twins to meet each other at any point of time. This would have raised identity issues when they grew up in life and both families being close, any close encounter between the two sisters would have resulted in frightening consequences that could easily topple a relationship. As Kapil was the recipient, he offered to be the one to shift out and the place he wanted to go to was Chandigarh, which was a place familiar to him. So he took his wife and his daughter Divya to Chandigarh leaving his bosom friend Kundan with his daughter Jyoti at Srinagar.
So Divya and Jyoti were separated soon after birth to face their destiny separately.
The newspaper delivered to the house where Divya lived gave a complete description of her as she was found missing from school the day before where she had last been seen by her classmates. The ad had been posted by her father in desperation after they waited a long time for her to make an appearance at home a day earlier. The paper was published at Chandigarh and had a wide circulation in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal. She had not told anyone if she wanted to go someplace other than her home. The area around the school and her home had been searched the whole evening as also the route to and from her school. All points near the railway station and the bus stand were searched and no one reported seeing the girl at any of these places or even having purchased a ticket for travel. A missing report was filed with the police and they said they were looking hard. All her friends were questioned and no one was able to identify the place and time at which her presence was missed. The description of the girl and her picture was made available to the police at Shimla and Kalka that were the end points joining Solan.
Jyoti was 13 in 1993 when her father Kundan brought her to Chandigarh. Kundan had not heard from his friend Kapil in almost three years since 1990 and he wanted help from him as circumstances in the valley were not suitable for living and he decided to relocate. All his relatives and known friends had left the valley and he felt somewhat aloof without a confidante. He suffered mentally for almost three years, though he managed to continue living with militancy and constant threat to the family. But he found no let-up to the volatile conditions in the valley. His daughter was now a teenager and he did not like her to face a future of intolerance and anxiety besides a possible bodily assault. He came to Chandigarh because he knew the place well and he rented a house for his family and old parents who did not forget to caution him about the presence of his other daughter in the city. He also had a son now who was barely out of the teething years. He had promised himself he would soon find a job elsewhere and shift out of Chandigarh and in order to achieve that goal he wanted to confide in his friend and take his help without letting his daughter anywhere near his family. He had gone to his house to find that he no longer lived there and had left the city almost a year back. Kapil had almost given up writing regularly to anybody after the death of his parents earlier at Srinagar within a span of 6 months. But why was Kapil not keeping in touch about his movements, he had no idea about. It was at Kapil’s old residence that he learnt he had lost his wife and mother to his adopted daughter. Now that he was sure that Kapil did not live there, he decided to stay on and got his daughter admitted to a school. He also put his son in a kindergarten near-about his house.
The afternoon sky was brilliant and the sunshine a bit harsh, but the mountain air breeze did not affect the body to the extent that it needed some kind of shelter from the sun. Divya was walking home from school with her mind seething with rage at the manner her little brother had laughed when she fell from the dining chair at the breakfast time and she was already planning a revenge attack on him as soon as she reached home. She just happened to notice a busload of children standing near a school bus that did not belong to her town and very casually she approached the bus to know what all happened to it and meet some of the students of her age who stood nearby watching. While speaking to a girl almost her age she learnt that they had punctured tyres that were being repaired and she was surprised when the girl called out her name as Jyoti and also asked how she had managed to change her dress. It did not strike her as relevant until she came face to face with another girl who was just a mirror image of her and who in turn was looking at her in a very surprised and amazed manner. Then she learnt that this was the girl called Jyoti and she was part of the group that was returning to Chandigarh after a two day trip to Shimla.
It was Rudyard Kipling who said the twain shall never meet but he only meant East & West.
The events leading to the sudden meeting of the two sisters created a chemistry of sorts and what followed was an exchange of information that lead to the belief that there was some cosmic connection between the two. Unknown to the two teachers who accompanied the school bus and with the active connivance of the other girls the bus soon departed for Chandigarh with an additional soul on board, for whom an active search would soon begin at the highest priority in the town of Solan. She was kept hidden all along and during the three hour journey to Chandigarh Divya learnt all she could about Jyoti, her family and her little brother who was too young to behave like her own brother did back home. So much so she longed to meet this other brother who would perhaps be nice to her and she would gladly share her love for him that she was unwilling to do until now.
And then she met her parents for the first time after her separation - 13 years ago.
It was not difficult for Kundan to understand what the sequence of events had been but he was equally alarmed at what all had happened. How would he explain these events to his great friend and beneficiary of his gift so long ago that he had gotten back the gift without even asking any return at any time of his life. Although his wife was too happy to have her daughter back, it became predictably difficult for Kundan to accept the fait-accompli. The very next day he rushed to Solan to meet his long-lost friend and put his mind at ease that things would be sorted out in the best possible manner with no offence taken to the foolhardy steps taken by Divya in disappearing from home just like that. While on his way, alone of course, Kundan made up the best strategy to deal with the situation and pacify all concerned about the events of the past two days.
Kapil had not eaten anything since the disappearance of his daughter and nor had his little son who kept weeping all along and pining for the return of his loving sister Dee. He was not consolable at all and wanted his father to try all means to find his sister for him. The police had found no clue and all efforts to trace the missing girl were met with dead end results. And towards the mid-day when Kapil appeared at his door with two policemen in tow, Kapil burst into a fit of weeping himself that he could not control at the sight of his dear friend and father to his daughter. He escorted his friend inside the house and seated him with care and affection and looked at his face with a woebegone look asking for forgiveness at the turn of events of the past three days. They both got talking soon enough when all had been shared and explained things started to get clear and matters soon resolved. The police called off the search and the case was closed.
But the case did not close for Divya when it was time for her to return home to her father and the little brother who affectionately pecked her repeatedly when she returned after a week’s absence. What Divya got in return for this little episode in her life was the open show of love and affection that she had been missing in her life all along. Divya now meets her mother and her sister Jyoti once in a while and the little brother who is just like the older one whom she had learnt to despise. But now she found a new bond of friendship between her and the little devil at her home that pleased her immensely. And she did not forget to hug her father and seek forgiveness for her misadventure. Her biological mother is now friends with her own mother now and the two families visit each other regularly.
Shri B.L. Dhar was born, brought up and educated at Srinagar. After getting his postgraduate degree in Mathematics, he decided to venture out of the state and seek an avocation more suitable to his taste. He joined the Civil Aviation sector as a Gazetted officer and finally retired as General Manager from the Airports Authority of India. He now lives in Delhi. He is an avid reader and has interest in writing. He has been writing for Shehjar for many years now.