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  Wild Flower — 3  

Sex & Violence
  Vol II : issue 1

  Amrita Pritam
  Mrinal Pande
  Evelyne Accad
  Gagan Gill
  Selina Hossain
  Only in Print

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Amrita Pritam

It was so apparent. With an effort of the will, Angoori had stopped the tears in her eyes and had put a tremulous laugh on her lips. “I don’t know how to sing.”
“You know…”
“This was nothing...”
“Your friend used to sing?”
“I had heard this song from my friend.”
“Then sing for me.”

“Oh, it’s just a counting of the seasons. It is cold for four months, hot for four months and for four months it rains...” “Not like this. Why don’t you sing it?” Angoori was counting the seasons as though she must account for the twelve months of the year.

“Char mahine raaja thandi hovat hai
Thar thar kaampe karejva
Char mahine raaja barkha hovat hai
Thar thar kaampe badarva.”
“Angoori!”

Angoori stared at me with vacant eyes. I wanted to put my hand on her shoulder and ask, “Dear girl, have you gone and tasted the wild flower?” I did put my hand on her shoulder, but I said, “Have you had any food?”

“Food?” Angoori asked strangely. I felt her body tremble under my hand. It was as though the song she had just sung with its trembling of the clouds in the rains, the trembling of the summer wind and the trembling of the heart in winter, the very song was trembling through her body.

I knew that Angoori used to cook her own food while Parbhati ate in the master’s house. I asked her again, “Have you cooked anything today?”
“No, not yet.”
“Did you cook in the morning? Have you had tea?”
“Tea? There was no milk today.”
“Why was there no milk today?”
“I don’t buy milk...”
“Don’t you drink tea every day?”
“I do.”
“Then what happened today?
“That Ram Tara brings the milk…”

Ram Tara was the chowkidar of our colony. We all contributed to his salary. He walked the streets all night and would be very tired in the morning. I recalled that until Angoori came to live here, he would drop in at one house or the other for a cup of tea. Then he would put his cot by the well and sleep through the day. After Angoori came, he started buying a little milk every day from the milkman. Angoori would put a pot of tea on her chulah and she, Parbhati and Ram Tara would sit around it, sipping their tea.

I also remembered that Ram Tara had not been around for three days. He was on leave — he had gone to his village.

A pained laugh came to my lips and I asked her, “Angoori! You haven’t had tea for three days!”
She could not speak. She just shook her head.

“Have you not eaten anything?” She couldn’t speak again. But it was apparent that even if she had, it amounted to nothing.

I recalled Ram Tara. A quick grace, soft features and eyes that smiled shyly. He also spoke very well.
“Angoori?”
“Yes.”
“Have you gone and eaten the wildflower?”

Tears started flowing down her face, soaking her cheeks and then her lips. Even the words which escaped her mouth were wet, “I swear I never took a sweet from his hands. Nor a paan. Only tea... was it mixed in the tea...?” Angoori could speak no further. Her voice was drowned in her tears.

Translated from the Punjabi by Nirupama Dutt for TLM

p. 1 p. 2 p.3

  Amrita Pritam is one of the pioneering woman writers of contemporary India. Her poetry in Punjabi won her the Jnanpith and Sahitya Akademi awards, among others. She lives in Delhi and edits Nagmani, a literary magazine in Punjabi