Chapter 9: Defeat

Last time, when my brother and his family visited India, a family belongs to Ludhiana, had also come with them and stayed at our joint house for overnight. Their daughter from London and my son mutually shared so much in common that they made a good equation. That’s where the matter had lead to their matrimony. As the wedding was supposed to take place in London, Bha ji had taken every responsibility. My brother-in-laws and uncles, Jawala Singh and Banta Singh insisted over the phone, to fetch along my wife with me as well. The day she got a visa, she was over the moon to participate in her son’s wedding ceremony.  

My daughter-in-law is an optician and my son is a dentist. I was at my son’s dentistry when I had met Jeeta, whom I knew from India. A lot of Asians live in this area of East London. He had come here in late seventies, illegally and after acquiring legal status, he has fetched his family.

When he used to do farming back home, in India, he would work really hard as his bullocks. He flew his sweat day and night in order to make some savings. He was a likable fellow but, when he used to distil white rum from his fermented sugarcane juice, he would drink senselessly, sometimes.

Now, he has bought his own house. His job in a foundry is very dirty, heavy and hot. Not many people like it, yet, he think himself fortunate enough to have such a well paid job. For him, it may be many times easier than that, he would do in his fields back home. For a manager or supervisor, skin colour makes no difference. All they are concerned in production and are happy enough to have such a worker.
No doubt, his wife is equally a hard working lady and responsible too.

About the domestic life of the Asian families, in the privacy of their own respective homes, initially, there had been many misconceptions in the minds of some white people. That’s why perhaps, when Richard rented a room in the house of Jeeta, he had felt that it were only the homes of these Asians that were inhabited in real terms. He thought that people like him were the residents of houses only. And at that time, he felt as if he had rented a room in a heaven like place. What an illusion! That was merely a false perception about an unknown culture.

By profession, Richard was a carpenter. Though his company paid him good wages, but still being a laborious, many a time, he did private work over the week ends to earn extra. He had two children, a son and a daughter. As long as both children were at school, his wife Sam kept strolling about in shops, parks or cafes. She never felt the need to take any job neither she had any particular hobby.

Steve, who was their milkman, a handsome young man in early thirties, had been ditched by his wife. A smile was always dancing on his lips. He was very hardworking and a humours fellow. Then only God knows why his wife had started living with another person, abandoning such a young man!
 Since the day his wife had ditched him, he had been feeling out of place at his home. But towards his work, as before, he showed the same sense of responsibility. He would get up three in the morning, collect and deliver milk and in this way worked up to seven or eight. He would have a brief siesta during the day and would have to go to bed round about ten at night.

The day his wife had separated, Sam had been getting more and more sympathetic towards Steve. Gradually, this compassion took a form of friendship and they started moving about together. As their mental camaraderie reached the extent of physical companionship, they were unable to know, whether they had adopted a wrong path or a right one.

Trouble started brewing between Sam and Richard. Their children started despising their mother and Steve. Initially, Sam used to call Steve at her house when the children were at school. But in no time, they would meet each other intimately and went wherever they liked, even in the presence of Richard and the children.

At last, the matter reached the court and Sam, who had been living with her husband affectionately, happily and faithfully, now was separating from him. The law declared Sam to be the owner of the house and gave her custody of the children. But, what happened to poor Richard? He was punished for being a good husband and a responsible father, in addition to being a noble and a hardworking man. The law of the land while it sympathises with the woman and pleads for their equal rights, sometimes, seems to exhort some women to get spoiled and break away, and innocent kids are left to suffer. It is possible that majority of criminals, may come from such backgrounds. Perhaps, that’s why street crime and knife culture is beyond control.

Sometimes, such inconceivable incidents take place in life. Sitting in his rented room, alone in amazement, Richard kept thinking about his past. He thought of his house purchased and decorated with hard work that accommodated his happy family. An idle brain is a devil’s workshop. The whole family is ruined when a woman goes astray.

Yet, in this world, many women must be prey to men’s tyranny and for them a husband is the only security in life and family. But in the countries where woman is not economically dependent upon her husband and is incapable of digesting the right of equality, there breaking up of the homes is not something unnatural. These days, this story is equally applicable to the Indians residing in Europe or North America. Moreover, the children in these broken families have to undergo such a suffering that no other tragedy is comparable to it, even the death of a father or mother.

Jeeta, by renting a room to Richard was happy for two reasons. Firstly, he has increased his income. Secondly, renting to a white tenant rather than an Indian, privacy of his domestic life could be more secure.
“He may be able to neither understand our language and not to know anything about us,” that was his thinking.  But poor fellow didn’t know that there is a script less language, through which one can communicate to the other.

Richard was so industrious that over the week ends, one by one, he replaced all the old doors of Jeeta’s house. Perhaps, he might be repaying the salt that he was consuming in this house. He would eat freshly cooked chapattis with chicken or lamb curry. He would shower praises on Meeto for cooking onion bhaji and other delicious meals.

Richard liked very much a woman like Meeto, who earns equal to a man and coming home in the evening, attended to the household duties. Her weekend was spent in cleaning and washing. On the contrary, what their men do? Drink, eat, laugh, joke and sleep, that’s all the story of foundry or factory workers.

Many a time, Jeeta, along with his friends, returned late from the pub, and Meeto and children would keep waiting for him. Whenever, any of his friends would accompany, they would sit with opening a bottle of whiskey. None would realise when it was midnight. To start with, Meeto took this discomfort and the services to her husband and guests for a good fortune but, with the time, her mode of thinking started changing.

One day, Jeeta came across a single man at the pub. “Why should you singe your hands cooking food all alone, at this time? Come along and go after eating,” saying this, he lead that man to his own house. After reaching home, they emptied a full bottle and then, gnawed the legs of roasted chicken.

Now Meeto would, many a time, for the sake of her husband’s health and wastage of money, criticise the way of eating and drinking inviting friends at home. Jeeta would flare up over such a criticism. Seeing him in temper, Meeto and children would be scared to silence.

Jeeta would spend liberally on whiskey and beer but now, sometimes, grudged even small expenses of the family. After returning from work, he often went straight to a near by pub and after having three four pints of bitter, returned home. That was his weekday’s routine.

One day, as he reached home, Meeto showed him the letter from India that her mother was seriously ill and were short of ten thousand rupees, to get her operated. Meeto had expected sympathy from him, but he hurled the letter away and pouring whiskey in his glass said, “You tell me for how many devils shall I spend? Brother needed for a tractor and his son, for a scooter! From what tree can I pluck the money from?” hearing these harsh words from Jeeta, she thought it advisable to keep quite.

On the advice of one of her colleague friends, she started saving few pounds weekly to help her mother. After a while, combining her savings and borrowing some from a friend, she sent this without the knowledge of Jeeta. Though, hiding something like this always seemed to her a sin, yet, she could not help joining her mother in adversity.

How can a one’s lie and a theft remain hidden? At last, the cat was out of bag. When Jeeta got a clue to it, not only he used abusive language but, angrily, also slapped her twice on the face.
This trouble took such a contemptible form that Meeto started feeling, as if she were living with some unknown person, not her own husband. In a situation like this, whenever she felt depressed beyond measure, she would press her both sons to her bosom as though she herself, wanted to be embraced by them.

As Richard noticed, the gradual unravelling of the layers of the ‘heaven’, he started feeling deeply concerned about Meeto, feeling a pure and sacred compassion. He thought, “How very strange these people are! Why their mode of behaving indoors is different from the one for the society outside? After being thrashed at home, why don’t these women complain to the police or a social worker? May be they believe in forgetting and forgiving! It is a sort of sacrifice for the sake of children.”

Richard thought that Indian men were very industrious and as far as possible, they didn’t let their ladies work outside, so that the children are looked after properly. But here the condition of such women is quite different and very pitiable.
 “How long will this carry on!” he questioned himself. “Sooner their next generation grew up and adopted this environment and lifestyle, many of them, may turn out to be the ones like Sam,” he wondered lost in his own observation.

God knows the root cause of that dispute. On that day, Jeeta had crossed all limits of restraint and anger. Children were scared too and at length, they requested him to stop, still Meeto had been severely thrashed that night.
Poor lady had been sitting in the front room, waiting for her husband’s temper to cool down. She thought, he would come downstairs to take her up and in the bedroom, he would apologise, taking her in his embrace and then, she would forget everything. So what? How does it matter if he has beaten her! Surely, he will be repenting now. But that was merely her imagination. He never came down and had been sleeping and snoring all night, lost in his sound sleep. The children had gone to sleep in their own room.

The next day, she did not feel like going to work, considering what she would say if somebody asked about the finger marks on her face. She remained thinking, “For the sake of this man, I had quit my parental sibling, leaving behind compassionate environment, friends and neighbours. Now if I can’t get love and compassion from this house, then what is there to sustain?”  Her despondency flowed from her eyes in the form of tears.

She felt like no more than a slave, to look after him and bring up his children. But for the future of her children, she was prepared to bear all this and still, gladly! She started thinking again, “In India, this man wasn’t so bad. Here in this country, instead of improving, what made him so unkind?”
 As the children before going to school, expressed their consolation, she thought, “she should wait for them to start earning and then, they make him straight.”

Meanwhile, she heard the creaking sound of the main door. That was Richard who had come from work and went straight up to his room. Lost in the world of disappointment, she didn’t realise when it was four o’ clock. Both of her sons had returned from school and she started preparing tea and snacks for them.

At night, when Jeeta learnt that Meeto had not gone to work, he roared to ask the reason.
“I wasn’t well,” Meeto said at a low pitch.
“Has a snake bitten you? People beat their wives black and blue and they utter not a word. Have the heavens fallen if I have lost a temper in drink?”
Upon receiving bitter words, instead of sympathy, Meeto couldn’t help control herself and said, “The day your sister was abused by her husband with reference to her mother, why did you feel infuriated? Why didn’t you think that husbands beat their wives black and blue…?”
Before she could complete her say, she received a forceful slap that rendered her face. Upon receiving information by their elder son, Richard came downstairs and violently, shook Jeeta’s arm and said, “Stop it, If you touch her again…!” he looked angrily at him.
“What ju do?” Jeeta roared in response.
“I will call the police and get her away from you wherever she can remain safe and sound, understand?” Richard retorted with equal force.
Meeto failed to understand what Richard had said. She could only understand one word ‘police’. And Jeeta’s hand, raised in the air slackened at once. He felt that he had been vanquished, not only by Richard and the law of the land, but by his own self, too!


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