Chapter 11: Outdated Values

Whenever Gurbachan came across, he had the same complaint against his wife, Harpreet.
“Everyone else can change but, not my wife. She is living in the past, that’s why she is scared to face the present,” he always grumbled.

Time kept elapsing along with changing circumstances and environment.

For some, it’s very hard to change with the time. If they do try, they become too late to be able to walk along with contemporary values. Time leave them far behind. Gurbachan’s wife seemed to be one of such sort of  people.

Obviously, any other person may be the same, brought up in the similar situation and environment as Harpreet. That day, over a trivial matter, she became furious.

“I have told you this much that I am not going to allow you to roam about with those girls at number fifty three. Their bearing and movements are not acceptable to the decent society. I have seen them with ruffian like boys,” Harpreet, beside herself with anger, was telling to her daughter, Simmi.

Seeing her slightly cooled down, Simmi said, “Mummy, you are repeating what you said that day, for nothing. That boy is our college mate too. If he has given them a lift, how does it matter?”
“You tell me, what has happened? Has nothing happened as yet? If a young girl roams about in the car of any boy, don’t you know what happens? What will other people of the fraternity, who notice it like me, say? A matter like this spreads through the whole town overnight, like a wild fire. You are nobody to say, how does it matter?”

“Don’t make a mountain of a mole hill, roared Gurbachan, intervening. Then at a low pitch, he said, Simmi, my daughter, don’t take ill of what your mother says. In fact, she is over worried about you. When she was of your age, time was quite a different. Now, in co-educational schools and colleges, how can we forbid you to speak to any boy! Go and prepare tea, perhaps after having a cup of hot tea, the temper of your mother may cool down,”
“It is not a matter of mere temper, the elder one also, had studied here. She had neither ever got her hair cut nor had she ever wear makeup. Everyone showered praises on her.”

Observing Harpreet’s temper cooling down, Gurbachan said in a lighter mood, “I tell you this, that the elder one was made in India and this one is made in England, so the difference between them two, is natural. Secondly, there wasn’t any material of makeup available in villages, as it is today. Now, if you can use it, are the heavens going to fall if this poor girl has ever used a little?”
Meanwhile, Simmi arrived with tea and they took together. Bitterness produced in the homely atmosphere, disappeared in no time. Perhaps a hot cup of tea, might have worked like a homeopathic medicine!

As the sun rose, the whole of the dinning room was enveloped in the warm sunshine. Gurbachan left for work and Harpreet engaged in preparing breakfast for Simmi. Waiting for Simmi, she called in a loud voice, “Girl, come downstairs otherwise your breakfast will be cold.”
“Just coming in a minute,” Simmi answered from upstairs.

When she came down, sitting in front of the industrial sewing machine, she heard her mother abusing somebody
“Whom are you abusing, Mummy?” asked Simmi in amazement.
“Well, whom can I abuse and who gets abused by me? That dammed clothing manufacturer has heaped all these garments beside me, saying that the belts are not properly stitched! Now I have to detach them all and stitch them again. He may be asked why he grudges for paying reasonable money for our labour, and now has imposed double labour on me. Look at this payslip envelope! He has taken away five pounds out of twenty seven as a tax. God knows! Whether he shows me as his employ or not! My previous employer has been deducting tax and national insurance, and when I found out, national insurance records showed nothing.”

“Mum, still there is plenty of tea left in teapot if you want some,” saying this, she again jumped upstairs.
For some time when Simmi didn’t come down, Harpreet warned, “Girl, it is time to leave, don’t get late again.”
Upon receiving no response, she went upstairs and found Simmi applying eye shade before the dressing table.
“Can’t you answer? I am shrieking that you shouldn’t get late and here, you are after the makeup. Do you go there to study or to display fashion?” she asked angrily.
“Well mum, you cause a quarrel for nothing,”
“Do you tell me that I am causing a quarrel? What is the purpose of makeup in class rooms? The same time can be utilised for study! Your teachers also seem to be the chips of the same block.”
“Oh mum! One looks smart, pretty and likeable. When you were young, were you not fond of…?”
Before she could complete the sentence, Harpreet was beside herself with rage. Uttering unpalatable words, she started descending downstairs. Simmi was very surprised too, but thought it advisable to keep quiet.

“The rascally girl wants to probe my youth. So far as we are concerned, feeling shy and ashamed was our second nature. We would never let our shawls slip from our heads. If she had been brought up there, she would have known such social norms,” she remained muttering wrathfully.

Many a time, it wasn’t so serious matter as Harpreet seemed to feel. When Simmi returned home, Harpreet still was in temper and didn’t talk to her in a normal way. On the contrary, Simmi was completely unaware that her mum was still angry on this account. A trifle of the morning took the form of a big domestic conflict, like a smouldering fire, within Harpreet.

When Gurbachan returned from work, expressing her unhappiness and anxiety, Harpreet cautioned, “Look! Don’t repent of it tomorrow. Actions and movements of your beloved daughter are not desirable. After the day we married her off, she has to do makeup for the rest of her life. Now this time for her is to study, and rest you can consider yourself.”
Interrupting her, he said, “You have not seen much of the outer world. You are mainly concerned with your industrial sewing machine and your own domestic life. The children of others are doing much more, you are fortunate enough to have such a nice daughter. Please do not upbraid the poor girl over very trivial matters. Believe me, this way she will go farther away from you and then, you have to repent. If she wears a slight makeup or wear a skirt instead of salwar, what harm will it do? Think like other people living in the twentieth century. After about one and a half decade, this century will be over too!”

“Ok, let it be like that. But one day you will have to feel penitent. Earlier, she had never retorted to me and now, she has a six inch long tongue,” revealing her anxiety, she wanted that if Gurbachan keeps pulling up Simmi, she can become more obedient, perhaps this was her own belief.
Seeing a mood of calmness and seriousness, and sentiments of sympathy for her on Gurbachan’s face, she further added, “If some guest happens to visit us, she has never behaved as the children of the respectable families do. Rather I feel ashamed. Instead of sharing my work in the kitchen or to serve them, she leaps up to her room and moreover today, she was reminding me of my youth days. The wanton girl may be asked as to what she knows about my youth.”

In the silence of the night, the clock on the table seemed to tick louder. Harpreet felt that she was having a sort of conflict inside her. As she was caught in the vortex of her thoughts, her mind started reflecting on her childhood and youth, left far behind across many lands and seas. Her paternal village was a small one, like so many other villages in Punjab state. But it was in the neighbourhood of two town-like villages. Each day passed from dawn to dusk, in doing small chores and night under the star lit sky.
She had a friend named Palo. They two, enjoyed mutual sisterly affection and often stayed at each other’s house. Many a time, they would sleep on the same bed and spent whole night in conversation. God knows! What those matters were which could not be exhausted even in long daily discussions.

Palo was married earlier. Her younger brother-in-law was an engineer at Nangal dam. During holidays, he would come to visit Palo’s village. God knows! What charm that young man possessed, that Harpreet was drowned over head and ears in love for him, in her thoughts. Time kept marching, parallel to her dreams. They kept intoxicated seeing each other. Within their minds, a desire to get closer began to take roots and one day, Harpreet’s mother had noticed their mutual intentions. That day, she had been dealt severely. Thereafter, her mother followed her like a shadow.

Harpreet had pleaded hard with her friend, Palo, that she should persuade her mother for marriage to her brother-in-law. On the other side, Palo’s brother-in-law also, made several solicitations. But, Harpreet’s father had promised to some other party. That was Gurbachan, who was about to leave for UK. Hence, the dreams of Harpreet had been remained unrealised.

 For full eight years, she remained in her village as a devotee of a foreigner, Gurbachan. At the spring time of her life, she was married and yet, remained separated for eight long years. Counting the days, she had passed these years and only she knew, how she had covered this gigantic journey of time, sobbing, sulking and lamenting! Only that person can have the experience of this sweet and light pain who has ever been confronted with it.
At last, she, along with her seven year old daughter, came to the glittering world of their dreams.
After joining her husband, she had forgotten the misery of her long separation. She was very happy to be in present leaving the past behind.

“How can these girls imitate our youth,” she murmured to herself. Then, she started thinking how different these two worlds were? It is wrong, even to strike a comparison between them. It doesn’t make sense. We had a veiled face and these girls have bare faces! Now even back home, no one has a veil.

The chain of her thoughts got linked again to the memories of her village life. She had a remembrance, besmeared with the feeling of fear and guilt. At their home, there was a fond and handsome brother-in-law, younger brother of her husband. The day speedily used to pass while she had fun with him. But every corner of their house, used to be watchful. If not, she could have committed some mistake too. At times, she had seen such a glimpse in the smile of the glowing eyes of her brother-in-law. She had noticed similar smiles in some young men’s eyes when she was at her paternal village. She was well aware of this physical invitation. Perhaps, it was because of the circumstances, situations and restraints of that time of united family system, that his father’s honour remained unstigmatised; otherwise, nothing could be said of Harpreet. Then suddenly, she felt irritated with such memories of the past and started trying to get rid of them to sleep. She didn’t want to disturb her husband by rolling in the bed as he was in deep slumber.

It was after mid night. She just had a wink of sleep and was reawakened. She remained occupied in scrutinising these matters. After honest consideration, she felt that she was really pursuing meaningless and outdated things. She started feeling a sort of pity for Simmi. Then, she got up and switched on the light of her bedroom. Simmi was enjoying a sound sleep. Harpreet felt like awakening her and begging pardon of her. She wore a mysterious smile on her face and quietly putting off the light, she returned to her own room, tiptoe.


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