YESTERDAY AND TOMORROW-RED GHAGRA (PART FOUR)
Tailor-Master had a thriving business in Chandigarth. Being one of the few dorjis
who had trained in the big cities, he had an expert grasp on the art of
fittings, and his hand-stitched cholis were things of art. They disguised the
under-arm rolls that were the curse of all women, while pushing up the plump
assets that were the focus of all men.
In his wrinkled hands, a few metres of cloth could transform a pigeon into a swan, while his stock of gotis, appliquies and stonework dupattas brought sighs of envy from his less talented competition. Of course, all this meant, naturally, that not only was Birla Master a very popular tailor, he was an autocratic old man who picked and chose his clients. He had more business than he could handle, but being an artiste, he didn't really care about the money.
Paro had tried for weeks to get Birla Master to give her an appointment. There was something special that she wanted to get made, and only the best would do. But for some reason the old man had simply not liked her when she had shyly entered his shop. When she had placed her package on to his counter, and hesitatingly told her what she wanted him to do, he had stared at her in shock. The old man had touched the material as if it were dirt, and loftily told her he didn't do these types of orders. He only did original work, work that allowed him to design and select colors, make something new.
After finding out that she was not interested in getting something new tailored, he dismissed the shy young woman. Paro left the store thinking she had somehow offended the great Birla Master.
But that was not true. Her beauty, her grace and figure had been very appealing to an old man who was used to working against Nature everyday. He was a little tired of working to disguising flaws instead of simply enhancing perfection, which he could see at a glance Paro was.
If Paro had placed herself in his hands, he would have been very happy to make her cholis that would drive the neighborhood men mad and ghagras that would wrap around her sinuous hips like a lover's caress as she walked. He knew, regretfully, that he was letting the most beautiful model for his creations go, but what she had asked was outrageous. No, it could not be done. If she had only asked for regular service! Well, no matter, she would go elsewhere.
He sighed, turning to close the store. And just---- stopped.
In front of him stood a god. Birla Master, a pious man, for several seconds truly believed that standing before him was the human reincarnation of Lord Shiva himself. Wild eyes, as ruthless and untamed as a monsoon storm gazed at him out of a granite face. The tall frame was made for destruction, containing overwhelming strength, while the chiseled face made him think of medieval warriors in old scripts. A force seemed to come from the man, leashed power and strength, kept tightly coiled, ready to lash out at a moment's notice. It was a man, perhaps, but not an ordinary one.
Birla Master took in the leather jacket and worn jeans, at first puzzled. But it was a glance at the army jeep parked outside that told him who this god-like creature was. Major Ranawat! The man who had been single handedly transforming the border towns, one by one, doing more for Indian security than a hundred officers before him! Birla Master slapped himself on the forehead. He was getting old, if he didn't instantly recognize the infamous, heroic BSD Major now standing inside his...ladies' tailoring shop?
"Woh. Dekha mene ke ek ladki aya tha yaha. Patli si. Bohot kuch nahi bolte. Baal lambe, koi neel wali ghagra mein. Aya tha kya?"
Stammering before the questions, Birla-master bowed and scraped, welcoming this frightening Army man inside his shop. "Ji!! aya tha ek baisa!" he admitted, wondering what that slim young slip of a girl had done that was so bad the Major himself had come chasing after her tail.
"Kuch diya tumko? Haath mein kuch tha shayad. Koi packet-waket?" The Major growled, looking remarkably out of place amongst the hanging dresses and pictures of simpering heroines inside the shop.
Birla Master could confirm that she had a packet, and he had examined what she had brought. But it wasn't anything dangerous, or illegal, he hastened to defend himself. Just an old wedding ghagra-jori, horribly stained and bilkul ruined. Red-gold, old fashioned, totally worn out and torn. She wanted him to recreate the outfit! Down to the appliqu, the dupatta, the border and mirror work! It had been her mother's wedding jora, and had somehow got into this condition.
But the Ladki wanted to wear exactly that jora's copy to her wedding! She had begged for his help, she was planning to marry but would only wear this outfit and no other. He could do it, only if he worked day and night to find such old style gotti, but why would he? It was impossible, it was outrageous, the outfit was fit for nothing but the dumpster, it was so...Birla Master stuttered to a stop.
The Major, who had been listening intently to his explanation suddenly turned to him, his eyes flashing with an eerie light. Birla Master almost cowered before the joy he saw in the younger man's face. Joy and...triumph? Now, in a voice rendered almost unrecognizable with emotion, the Major gave Birla Master instructions.
Birla Master would go to this Ladki's house. Here was the address. Here was some money, to execute the Ladki's exact order. Birla Master would beg the Ladki to allow him to make her wedding jora. She would not know anything about the Major's visit here, today. Birla Master would make her happy. The jora would be an exact, an EXACT replica, down to the last mirror and the smallest sequin. He would stop all other work, and his entire tailoring team would do just this, until it was completed.
And once it was done----The Major waited for Birla Master's terrified nod---once it was done, he could come to the biyah. He could be in the baraat, if he liked. But he would expect Birla Master to finish this order as soon as humanly possible. It was an order from the Indian Army.
Saying this, the Major turned and almost ran down the steps. "Kaun ka baraat? Kiss ka biya?" stammered the bewildered Birla Master, holding the cash notes the Major had given him in his hands. "Mera!" said the Major, looking up at the shocked tailor.
The smile that illuminated Major Ranawat's face as he drove
away kept Birla Master rooted to his door for many long minutes. And then, the old man smiled himself,
remembering the shock and joy on the BSD officer's face as the man realized what
his Ladki had been planning. Birla Master felt a twinge of envy as he
remembered that Ladki's sparkling eyes. After all, he was a man first, and a tailor
baadh mein. Young love! He went happily back into his store, pushing other
orders impatiently aside. He had work to do!
YESTERDAY: Paro sat in the corner of Rudra's bedroom, huddled into herself. The cold of the desert night had crept in through the old stone floor, reaching up into her body and causing her to shiver uncontrollably. The heavy jewelley sat like a choke collar around her neck, keeping her weighted down as if her own ornaments had become her enemies, conspiring against her along with HIM. Her bangles jangled as she rubbed her arms and the sound reverberated into the night. Frightened by what the consequences would be if she woke HIM up, she grabbed for her own wrists, painfully clamping the bangles to her skin.
Too late. A creak came from the bed across the room, and the next moment, she was wrenched up to her feet. His fingers grabbed at her shoulders, and the flimsy material covering her arm tore like tissue paper. He tossed the shredded silk aside, and she felt his leg move to trap her own.
The ghagra hit against her ankles, pushed in by his strength, the heavy embroidery sending shooting pain into her legs. She struggled, trying to get leverage, and felt him grab at her hip, pulling the fabric tight around her waist. A rending sound, as the stained fabric suddenly came out, threads dangling from the folds. Shaking with disbelief and the horrific fear of why she was being unclothed, Paro choked back a cry, trying, silently, desperately, to stop the marauding monster from attacking her.
Why was he shredding her clothes like this she thought frantically...and visions of being attacked in the worst possible way suddenly came into her mind. Frightened more than she had ever been, Paro uttered a strangled sound, her tears falling and dampening the red cloth. "Zabardasti nah karo, manne sath itna kuch kiya, lekhin yeh na karo-- manne baksh do" she whispered, and felt him rear back in shock as if she had slapped him.
Thrown up against the pillar, she felt a mirror-piece break off the ghagra and dig into her back. Gasping from the sudden pain, she tried to push the unmoving boulder holding her to the wall, tried to get away from the splinter in her back. She was pushed more firmly back in. Tears, unbidden, rained down her face and onto the huge arms holding her to the wall. She looked into the hooded eyes of her captor, her own wet ones silently begging for release.
"Lag ra hai mennu...ghagra se kanch chub gaya" she gasped, and as suddenly as she had been pinned, she was released. The dark looming shape that was the Major backed off, and Paro reached back to feel for the glass splinter.
As she tried to wipe up the blood trickling down her back with her dupatta, she heard him rummage in his closet. A tiny choli and the skirt of a short ghagra hit her in the face. "Wo shadhi ka jora utar. Aur yeh pehn le" came a steely voice from the darkness.
"Bechari banne ke liye yeh pehen rakkhe hai kya? Tujhe pehle bhi bola, mera kuch kapde pehne ko. Tu to sun na se ra. To meine Laila ko bola ke uss ke kuch purane kapde wo leh aiye.Tu Laila ko nahin janti, lekin woh teri size ki hai. ---Yeh pehn le."
Paro looked up in astonishment. Who didn't know Laila, the dancing girl, the Major's kept woman? In the village, she had heard about women like her, spoken about in hushed tones. Here in the army camp, she had seen the beautiful, bold woman stroll into the Major's quarters as if she owned them. From her cell, she had heard the whispers and sniggers of the constables and prisoners, and even in her innocence, she fully understood exactly what Laila was doing in those quarters.
Take off her mother's gift to her, to put on HIS mistress's cast offs?
"Nahi" said Paro, wincing a little. The ghagra had become stained and torn, and it chafed against her skin, causing red weals here and there. The beautiful zari-work had become a penance, rubbing her arms and necks raw. She longed for something else to wear. But if her choices were Laila's clothes or the Major's, she would keep this red jori on until she died.
There was total silence in the dark bedroom. Paro, for a moment, almost thought she was alone, the Jallad had even stopped breathing, it seemed, so total was the unbroken air around her. And then came his voice, sibilant, like a snake hissing in the dark---"Mein utaru? Tu kisi aur ki patni ye koi farak nahi parega muje. Utaru teri yeh ghagra?"
Paro shuddered, and ran to the screen next to the wardrobe, stumbling in the total darkness. A low laugh followed her, as she frantically stripped behind the screen, fumbling at the hooks. Though she had longed to be able to change her clothing for weeks now, suddenly, it felt as if her wedding jori was begging her to stay on, to hold on to her role as a bride.
She cried silently, feeling a constriction in her throat. The Jallad, somehow, was taking even this from her, making her meaningless, turning her into something profane and disgusting, even though Laila's clothes were fresh. The stained and destroyed ghagra suddenly seemed clean, seemed pure. But he would strip her, and if he did that perhaps he would force her to her take what Laila so willingly took from him. No!
The red ghagra dropped from her body as if it weighed a ton. She was no longer a bride. As it fell from her trembling body, it seemed to carry down with it all her expectations, her hopes and dreams. Her future fell in red folds of cloth around her ankles, now tattered, stained with blood and wet with her tears. She would never be clad in her mother's blessing again, never wear red again. It was over.
THE YESTERDAY AND TOMORROW SERIES-ENJOY!
Edited by napstermonster - 2014-06-13T05:54:32Z
Topic started by napstermonster
Last replied by bluemoon255