Annual of Urdu Studies, v. 5, 1985 p. 77.


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Rajinder Singh Bedi

A WOMAN

There were only two or three things in Naseem Park in front of the Town Hall that always caught my attention A tall willow tree whose trunk wore a lovely coat of green moss, and which could be seen from a distance swaying like a drunk A spirited but foolish-looking student, who would toss his books on the grass and go on humming just the same English song—"If winter comes, can spring be far behind7"

The third was a young woman of twenty or so with a child stricken with palsy, whose drool-covered face she would sometimes kiss as if in a frenzy She always wore a plain white, voile sari and the look on her face said "Keep your distance'"

When I first saw her I thought she looks hungry But then immediately, she bought some oranges and scattered them on the grass in front of her child If she had been hungry she would have eaten the oranges Then I thought perhaps she was starved for sex But if I were right there wouldn't have been that frown on her face Also, like nine women out of ten she too would have chosen for herself some bright colors

The stroke had left the child's face quite unattractive, and it was always wet from his drooling His mother would wipe his mouth and chin with a handkerchief, but he would shake his head in protest and pull back The next moment, he would again be blowing bubbles of drool which would fall on his mother's and also on his own face, leaving me strangely disgusted Then he would begin to laugh—a meaningless, stupid laugh—and the woman would get so happy that tears would come out of her eyes

After some time I discovered that the black car that came every day to the gate of the park and whose driver so impudently honked the horn again and again, came to fetch this woman Often a tall heavy man would get out of the car, wearing tight chundar pajamas, whose waist-string could be seen peeking out from under his fine muslin shirt His patent leather pumps shone blindingly in the sun and his mouth was always stuffed with betel-leaves When he came near I could see from his reddish eyes and and the stench of his breath that he had been drinking Perhaps that alcoholic man was the cause of the child's palsy When he would get near, he would fix his hungry eyes on the woman, and sometimes even try to drag her by the arm toward the car The way he acted, he appeared to be the woman's husband, though not the father of the child

Even when her husband called her, the woman would continue to play with the child in her own strange fashion Sometimes, the husband would perch himself on the stump of an old tree and watch her After a while the woman would look at the man with the same forbidding look and start gathering the child's clothes and toys The sound of the car's horn would get louder and the woman s hands would move faster

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