JASMINE FLOWERS

JASMINE FLOWERS

A Story by Prateeksha Khot
"

All her life she lived her life for others until she decided to live for herself............

"
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This is a previous version of JASMINE FLOWERS.



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Slowly she raised the butt of the lighted cigarette and took a puff. Just like she had seen him do it. And realized with great surprise that she actually enjoyed it. Admittedly, the first time was unpleasant but the second and the third got her used to the nicotine flavor and she blew another ring of smoke. It was true - it was indeed fun. Right again, as he had always been.........

The atmosphere was tense as all waited with bated breath for the reply. It was worse than waiting for exam results, even worse than the wait for medical test reports. Finally , the guy's mother said, "Use ladki pasand hai. Ye rishta hamen manjoor hai !"("He liked the girl. We are ready for their marriage"). The relief for the girl's relatives was intense but it wouldn't have looked good to display so. Instead with smiles on their faces, they passed around sweets to celebrate this joyous occasion. In all the hullabaloo, no one noticed the quiet communication which took place between them through their eyes.
He was right, as always..
She had been scared when he had professed his love for her, certain that her parents would never agree to a love marriage. That was a taboo - not only for them but for everyone in the village. But she was helpless. She wasn't sure when she herself had fallen in love with him. Was it the time when she caught him slyly staring at her while she filled pots of water from the well ? Or was it when he had caught her trying to listen and learn-she had to leave school to support her family- through the windows of the classroom as he taught the students. She didn't know. The only thing she knew was that there would be immense trouble for both of them if anyone knew.
But he had been calm. "If I say to my parents that I love a girl, my parents will never agree for the marriage. But. If they get the proposal through a mediator without them knowing about our love then no one can stop us from being together." And so the plan was had been set. He took his best friend's help who just let it drop during a conversation with the parents that there was a girl of marriageable age in the village who would be ideal for their son.
And so here they were, finally ready to be united in a sacred relation. Her parents happy to get rid of atleast one daughter, his parents happy for the dowry that they would be getting. But they were the only two people in the room who were happy for a valid reason  - LOVE.

She lit another cigarette.She had thought that their worries would be over now. That they could live happily ever after. But she had forgotten that such endings existed only in books and movies not in real life.........

It was as if no one had spoken anything. Or maybe she couldn't hear anymore. She just stood still even as the others around her burst out crying fake tears and displaying vulgar sadness. But her ; only one sentence engulfed her mind as she tried to absorb the full meaning of what was told to her -HE IS DEAD. Dead, her beloved husband , the one who had taken the " saath pheras ", the one who had promised and taken the holy wows during their marriage to be with her for seven births, had left her forever, not fulfilling his promise for even this lifetime.
"You witch! You inauspicious being! You took away my son's life! He was happy and alive before his marriage to you but see what you did to him. If I had known you would bring such ill-luck I would never had got him married to you."
"It was not just her inauspiciousness mother, " the youngest daughter said, "she is a witch who planned my brother's death. Do you know what he was doing when he met with the accident? He was bringing her jasmine flowers. I myself heard her throwing a tantrum around him in the morning to bring her jasmine flowers to put in her head."
Accusations and cursings ensued but she was oblivious to them all. It was her fault indeed. She had asked him to get the jasmine flowers and he had met with an accident. If she had not persisted, he would still have been alive.
It was all her fault........

That was what she had been let to believe. And that was what she had herself believed. Through all those years of pain, loneliness, torture, guilt, grief - it was all her fault....

She knew her life was worthless without him. Without him, she was just a body without a soul. She could never forgive herself for being the cause of his death and so the ill treatment metted out to her by his family did not hurt her. The condition of the widows was still bad in her village and being a young widow at that meant more sufferings. She was not allowed to leave her house. The only piece of clothing given to her was a white saree. Food was meager, worse than that of even a beggar. She was not allowed to mix with others, take part in the festivals, nothing. But she never minded that. Infact she preferred the solitude. And so she continued to quietly endure. Until that day......

Looking into the mirror,  she stared at her reflection. This was something she had not done in a long, long time. Her hand automatically went to her bald ,clean shaven head and she shuddered a little as the scenes of that day vividly came alive in front of her eyes....

One of the 'important rituals' of preparing the widows for a life of eternal damnation was the chopping off of their hair. It was believed that a woman should groom herself only for her husband and if he was dead then she had no right to look pretty. Hair is an important aspect of a woman's beauty and hence it is shaven so that she doesn't ' yield to temptation '. She is not allowed to grow her hair again. But as the barber brought the razor down, she finally screamed. '
NNNNNOOOOO. You can't shave my head. I will not allow you to touch my hair!"
"Look at the conniving witch! Now she seems to have plans to trap her dead husband's younger brother ! Just look at her !"
No matter what, she thought, she will not shave her hair. Not for her, but for him.  "Your hair is like the dark sky, like the kajal in the eye. Don't ever cut it". He used to love her luscious black hair and would always play with them. He loved pinning up the jasmine flowers in her hair. Jasmine flowers... The jasmine flowers she had sent him to buy... The jasmine flowers he had died while bringing...
She quietly sad down and did not utter a word until the barber had finished his job......

She stopped after the third cigarette had been stubbed. Her eyes fell on the cross which hung from her neck. It brought a smile to her face, something which she had rarely done in the past years. And something which she tried to do now during her stay in the old age home.The place which had brought her close to so many like her, parents thrown out by their children, in-laws left here by their daughter-in-laws, loners with with one to look after them. Each had a story to narrate and people to listen and console them. She was in a way, quite happy here, away from the torments of her in-laws relatives. And all this had been a coincidence.......

She couldn't believe that she had actually run away from the house. It was all in the spur of the moment, the treatment was being too much to handle by her frail body. She now had nowhere to go, no money, nothing; she definitely couldn't go back to that obnoxious place. As she was deliberating what to do, she saw a kind lady who had finished her Sunday mass coming towards her . It was then she realized that she was sitting across a church. The lady asked her, "What are you doing standing in the heat ?" . When she didn't reply, the lady took a long look at her and asked, "You do have a home, don't you? Or are you homeless?". When she nodded slightly, the lady took her hand and leading her said ,"Come with me. I know a place which you can call your home. There are many like you over there and you will get protected from the most dangerous illness of old age : Loneliness."

And that was how she had come to be here. Hoping to start her life afresh. She couldn't thank the lady enough for displaying such kindness. While leaving she had quietly placed the cross in her palm and said, "Keep this with you. God will give you the strength and hope whenever you need." It is surprising how your so called loved ones may never show affection to you but you will get abundant love from a complete stranger. She tried to put her past behind and start her life at the center but destiny it seemed had other plans for her..........

Few years had passed when she heard about a new arrival in the center. She had expected someone to be just like the many others, sent away for being a burden on the family . What she had not expected was the woman to be sister-in-law. Her sister-in-law with downcast eyes and seemed reluctant to talk to her, so she went away. But in the evening she herself came down to her room with what seemed to be a great amount of trepidation.
"Can I come in?"
"Sure."
"I wanted to talk to you.I... Well...I....I actually have a confession to make. It has been pricking my conscience and I know I won't rest in peace until I tell you."
She looked up at her sister-in-law wondering what was it that she wanted to tell her.
"That day when you sent my brother to buy the jasmine flowers, he got called away by some friends telling him that my drunkard husband had got into yet another brawl and was being beaten up. He rushed there to help him and the others instead turned their attention to him from my husband. In the midst of the fighting , someone punched and pushed him away not realizing that a truck was coming from opposite side. Seeing what had happened they threatened my husband and ran away. I lied because I wanted to save my husband. He did not die because of you but because of us. "

He did not die because of you...He did not die because of you....It was as if a huge weight was lifted from her heart. She felt light and free. She did not hold a grudge against her sister-in-law because she understood her fear. In times like these when they say that the country is advancing, a woman still lived a life under the shadow of her husband. And, no matter how her sister-in-law had behaved with her, she would never want her to undergo the same life as she did.

She smiled another smile. And looked into the mirror again. She wondered how she would look like when her hair would become knee-length again..................

© 2010 Prateeksha Khot


Author's Note

Prateeksha Khot
This was is for the BE CREATIVE CONTEST. If there are any suggestions please let me know. I would like to improve upon this draft.



Featured Review

A moving piece addressing many issues. I intend these remarks constructively; there's a proof reading error in the 5th paragraph where you write "Dead,[his] beloved husband" which can be easily missed because you were writing about him. Try to cut down on your use of starting sentances with She where you can, as this breaks up the flow which is unfortunate because there's alot of colourful descprition here. An example would be changing "She looked into the mirror at her reflection" at the start of paragraph 8 to something like, 'Looking in the mirror, she noticed her reflection' which could lead to more description. Perhaps you could describe the lady in the church in more detail and the jasmine flowers, their aroma. Just add a bit more description, in my opinion. You also make some poignant descriptions such as in the 7th paragraph you write "Without him, she was just a body without a soul." This is very emotive and your phrase "Her sister-in-law looked down with downcast eyes" shows her remorse. I'm being a bit picky, so please forgive me, I'd alter this slightly to 'Her sister-in-law looked with downcast eyes', there's no need to write "looked down". I hope this helps a little and adds to the flavour of this piece.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

wow!this was creative and moving, a truly great story:)You are very talented.

Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I read this last night and it wouldn't let the review go in.
I like this so much .. we all need our own lives even when we
are depended on by many.. this is a great story!

Peace
Chloe

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Probably your best work so far

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

its good

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This is really good. I myself am a Indian, but im from a modern family where a widow will not, CAN not be treated like that. Yet I live in America and i realize life in India has been like this for a while. Its improving. Slowly but surely...if only it was improving faster...

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

moving and beautiful, amazing, keep writing and i hope you won the contest

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Beautifully Written! Congrats on your first place win.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This is so beuatiful and moving.
I really enjoyed this story.
It's very well written

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

A moving piece addressing many issues. I intend these remarks constructively; there's a proof reading error in the 5th paragraph where you write "Dead,[his] beloved husband" which can be easily missed because you were writing about him. Try to cut down on your use of starting sentances with She where you can, as this breaks up the flow which is unfortunate because there's alot of colourful descprition here. An example would be changing "She looked into the mirror at her reflection" at the start of paragraph 8 to something like, 'Looking in the mirror, she noticed her reflection' which could lead to more description. Perhaps you could describe the lady in the church in more detail and the jasmine flowers, their aroma. Just add a bit more description, in my opinion. You also make some poignant descriptions such as in the 7th paragraph you write "Without him, she was just a body without a soul." This is very emotive and your phrase "Her sister-in-law looked down with downcast eyes" shows her remorse. I'm being a bit picky, so please forgive me, I'd alter this slightly to 'Her sister-in-law looked with downcast eyes', there's no need to write "looked down". I hope this helps a little and adds to the flavour of this piece.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

that was really great. beautiful and engrossing story

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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112 Views
11 Reviews
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Shelved in 3 Libraries
Added on April 21, 2010
Last Updated on April 30, 2010
Tags: jasmine, flowers, widow, india, love, old age, bald, hair, cross, religious, school, teacher, marriage, relatives, remorse, killed, death, torture, torment, ill treatment, white, church, clothing, lady, kind, god, kids, alone

Author

Prateeksha Khot
Prateeksha Khot

Mumbai, Maharashtra, India



About
A happy-go-lucky rebel, i like doing things my way : that is the different way. I am creative and like trying out new stuff : There's hardly anything in which I am not interested. Plus point ? : I HAV.. more..

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