Swati was about two years older than Chitra, but the two sisters were poles apart in nature.
When Swati was 23 and Chitra 21, their marriages were arranged by their father.
Swati was very stern and reserved; one could hardly ever see a smile on her face. As against her, Chitra was like a free flowing stream, very bubbly, could not sit still and could not contain her laughter.
One evening, upon coming home,he called out to his wife:”I say, Vijay is asking for the hands of our daughters in marriage to his two sons. What do you think?”
“Both the boys are cultured and well mannered. Moreover both the girls willbe staying together in the same house. I would say you confirm the proposal and proceed further.”
“Everything is fine over there,but you know the nature of our daughters. Will they live there peacefully?”
Despite such misgivings, Swati and Chitra became Vijay’s daughters-in -law.
Within just six months of marriage,their husbands perished in a plane crash while travelling on business.
Both the sisters were widowed on the same day.
Before leaving for office, as was her daily routine, one day Chitra was standing before the portrait of her late husband with folded hands, when she heard her sister’s angry voice:”Om Bhurbhuva Swaha….Chandrika, you have become very lazy…..Tat Savitur Varenyam…..for one thing you always come late…..Bhargo Devasya……and then try to be Chitra Madam’s favorite….I will not tolerate this.”
Chitra felt like laughing at this hypocracy. Every day Swati’s prayers were interspersed with her outbursts agaist Chandrika, their housemaid. She understood very well that her sister did not like her doing a job and was taking out her anger on poor Chandrika. She was downright rude to her. To offset the melancholy of widowhood, Swati had chosen the path of prayers, whereas it was just not in Chitra’s nature to follow her. Despite the suffering, it was impossible for her to withdraw in her shell. The spirited and friendly Chitra was well versed in computers so she easily got a job in a reputed company.
“Chitra didi, your coffee” Chandrika,her face doncast,holding a cup of coffee, broke her chain of thoughts.
“Thank you, Chandrika. I always have a good day after drinking a cup of coffee prepared by you.”
“May I tell you something didi, please do not take offence but there is a marked difference between you two sisters. While you are so kind and sympathetic, she is getting more and more aggrssive every day. She even abuses me when you are not around.”
“What?” Chitra could not believe her ears!
Chandrika was eight months pregnant and felt like eating something spicey alongwith the chapatis she had brought from home, so she requested for some pickels. Swati flared up at this , calling Chandrika utterly shameless and a beggar and what not?!
Chitra felt that just because she did not get this marital bliss how could her sister stoop so low?
Chandrika’s husband had deserted her for another woman,and only for that reason she was putting up with all these insults.
“Chandrika, didi is not bad at heart, all this is the result of her dissatisfied mind. You just tell me if you have any problems.” Chitra said while handing over a bottle of pickles she had bought while returning from office.
Chandrika gratefully caught Chitra’s hand,:”Didi, in this world you are my only support, I do not have anyone else but you.”
Chitra stroked her back ,full of sympathy.
After some days, Chandrika returned from a check-up with the doctor. Tears in her eyes, she pleaded with Chitra:”Didi, the doctor says that I am very aneimic and there is danger to my life at the time of delivery. Will you please do me a favour? Should anything happen to me, will you please put my child in any orphanage? I have nobody else in this world and I only trust you.”
During Chandrika’s final hours, Chitra was sitting there, holding her hand, unable to do anything. Looking at her open eyes, there was only one word echoing in her ears over and over again…TRUST…TRUST…TRUST
When she came home with the child and the newly appointed maid Sita, Swati’s anger knew no bounds. “What are you up to? You want this bundle of sin in our house? Chandrika was very smart, trying to act innocent and using sweet language, she won you over. I have tolerated everything till now but now, this bundle of sin…..”
“Enough Sister, not a word more…..using foul language for Chandrika or calling this innocent child a bundle of sin….don’t your Gods or Goddesses hold you back?
“No more arguments…I will not tolerate this here.”
“So be it. I should have left this home, which is totally devoid of humanity and human values long ago. Chandrika’s death and this newborn child have taught that very well to me.”
With her late husband’s photograph and a suitcase of clothes, Chitra stepped out of the house.
“Do not be concerned about us didi. We will find our way in this world. After all, this child must have brought its own fate.”
A wide eyed Swati saw Chitra go with Sita and the child.
BY ASHA VIRENDRA
BASED UPON THE ORIGINAL STORY IN TELUGU BY