( ગુજરાતી ભાષાના ખ્યાતનામ લેખક શ્રી ચંદ્રકાન્ત બક્ષીની વાર્તાનો અંગ્રેજી અનુવાદ)
(Translation of short- story of well-known Gujarati writer Shri Chandrakant Baxi)

An evening visit
Chandrakant Baxi
Translated By:Mahendra Bhatt

We changed the house in the third week of December and moved in to a new flat. The flat was on the groundfloor. The flat had three rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. Outside was a small open space, around which was a ten feet high compound wall, recently white washed. From behind the wall, scattered trees and black roofs of lower scale houses and changing sky could be seen. A large open space, where various types of flowers were grown, could be seen through the windows.
Mr.Akshaybabu, my Bangali landlord, was living above us alongwith his wife and three children. He was a clerk in some government office. His wife - Shobha - was black. She was used to laugh heartily and move around the plants grown in the open space during night time in darkness. All the three children were studying in a Baliganj side highschool.
I met Shobha for the first time when I had come to inspect the house with an agent. The house was old. My flat was being whitewashed.
The agent asked me to wait outside and went in. He called me in only after he had a talk. The painters, sitting on a bamboo stand, were clouring the walls with brushes. The room looked big as it was empty. The walls smelled of fresh colour, lime and dust.
"Would you please be sitted?” she told after welcoming us
"Yes."
"Are you only two?”
"Yes", said the agent interrupting, “The wife and the husband. Nobody else. You will not have to undergo any trouble. They are good people."
I kept quiet, starring outside at the open space. Shobha was observing me. I could get it.
We liked the place. After packing up, we shifted the goods in a truck within a week from then. Selecting a good day we started living there.
I used to leave my house at 8 o'clock in the morning after having my breakfast and be back at about one. I used to take rest after lunch for an hour or so and leave again. It would be nine when I returned home. After dinner we used to go to bed after some good hot discussion.
I and Shobha did not meet frequently. However she had an idea of my timings of going & coming. One Sunday as I was lying in my cot reading a book, she appeared on the window from behind the grill and said,
“Mr.Mehta, are you fond of flowers?”
I was startled; I put my book aside and got up. The noise of the stove from the kitchen gave an indication that Sarala was in the kitchen. I told, " Oh not much”
She smiled, “Your wife is very much. She takes away some flowers of Juhi from me every day in the evening “I simply starred, as I listened.
All of a sudden voice of Sarala was heard. Shobha slipped away from behind the window and I got up. All this happened so quickly as if switching on --
My meeting with Shobha was still rare. Except on Sunday, I used to stay in my shop for the whole day, from eight in the morning to nine o'clock in the night. I was keeping out of my house except an hour or so in the noon.
Shobha used to come down in the morning and talk with Sarala after I leave. Sarala used to give report of their talks at night which I listened carelessly.
Few days past, I felt that I had started liking Shobha. Attraction was curling up for Shobha in me. That was not unnatural but I was not ready to clearly admit that. Shobha was black, aged and mothers of three children. All of a sudden I slipped away in thoughts. Shobha, it seemed has been really attractive. Her body, even after undergoing three pregnancies, has been more symmetrical than that of Sarala's. She smiled, cut jocks and her looks had been alarmingly innocent. I had to struggle hard immediately to remove my sight from her high and fleshy breast. I felt guilty. Sometimes I thought she would enter all of a sudden in my room in absence of Sarala and would close the windows - in the evening. I had to put in efforrt to stop such thoughts. I had never told Sarala about that. And when she talked about Shobha, I pretended carefree composedness; however I listened to it with utmost attention.
Sarala and I used to go to theatre either every Saturday night or Sunday morning, to see a film. Invariably, sitting by window she used to watch us going. She praised me before Sarala. Sarala used to tell me everything. Once we both were going for a film when Sarala told me on way,
“Shobha is a clever woman. I am not at all afraid of the place because of her staying above us.”
“True she is like a tiger, why to fear!”
“She has an idea of every one’s coming and going. She even knows which bus route you go by, what you had put on last Sunday!”
“Is it? She might be telling it to you.”
“Yes, she told me, I am lucky that I could catch hold of a man like you—good boy!”
I looked at Sarala. She laughed.
“She is right.” I added, “You have really caught hold of a very good boy.”
“Don’t say, you had been impatient for marriage. I was not ready in the beginning.”
“Later on you agreed, because you thought not to let the chance go for you might miss me!” I said.
With that we stopped a taxi and got in to it.
Days passed. Sometimes Shobha, standing in the open space, used to see me going to the shop even in Sarala’s presence. She talked with me with smiles. We talked in Bangali. Sarala did not understand Bangali. I did not have much talk with Akshaybabu. He used to pass his time inside his louse except office time. Sometimes Ravindra Sangeet was heard from above, otherwise he was seen only when he was going to market to purchase vegetables.
Sarala once asked me, “It seems her Babu is not doing anything. Also, keeps on sitting idle in the house like a widow.”
“He is serving somewhere, above that, earns our house rent and it runs – goes on. Anyhow the follow is quite an easy going.”
“But how these two have adjusted as a couple? Shobha’s father is rich, has a jewellary shop. She had studied in convent.” (During childhood)
“How is it that, she being a convent student, has been cornered as simple housewife?”
“No, she is not cornered,” said Sarala, “Instead she has cornered her husband.” We both laughed.
“Do you know it was she, herself who looked after the repairing & colouring of our flat? She seems to be a perfect business woman! Such woman is rare in Bangali.” Sarala did not reply. It did not seem that she was lost in the thoughts.
As days passed, Shobha was getting more hold upon me. Days and nights, I used to think of her. She too, has been searching for an opportunity to talk to me. I could get it. However, she was not a woman who could do such foolery. She used to come down in the garden for plucking flowers, when I could see, shaving or laying in my coat on a holiday, a craving in her eyes to meet me, a desire for solitude.
Sarala stayed at home for the whole day. Shobha did not get time as she kept busy with her children and I had been at my shop almost every hour of a day. One fine morning she asked me, “Mr. Mehta, you are laboring very much!”
“What else could be done?” I said, “That is my fortune.”
She gave a mischievous smile, “Very few people have fortune like yours.” I also smiled.
“I would like to come to your shop once.” she said.
I got frightened, I feared to allow Shobha in to my world of business. Immediately, I said, “If you want anything, tell me, I may bring it for you. I come and go four times a day and I don’t think you should take trouble to go that far. I might have gone out, may not meet you there…” Shobha just starred at me.
I had lessened talking with Shobha in presence of Sarala. She also perceived the idea and avoided talking to me in Sarala’s presence. Her relations with Sarala had been good. Both of them talked much in my absence. If I happened to drop in, she would say with smile, “Now you both talk…” and used to quit quickly.
Many days passed. Shobha being very near to me was far away; beyond reach. I was not getting an opportunity to open my heart to her. She had always been trying to come close to me. But such loneliness was not found. Sarala had always been in the house. It happened rarely when Sarala went out and I was alone. I was taken aback simply by the thought of such a day. I got excited by the thoughts about Shobha and at last thought disappointedly that such an eventful day would never come when we meet in loneliness in the flat. As disappointment grew my desire to meet her also sharpened.
Shobha has been a very hot woman. The flash of boisterous youth in her eyes has still not calm down, even a bit. There was a flux of ocean – tide in her heavy body. It seemed as if I was fuming and chafing to get hold of her.
Way ward thoughts possessed me. Every evening when the faint gas lights glittered on the road, I felt dejected. I felt giddy. My head ached. Sometimes with a desire to return to home I would leave the shop and stroll in an air-conditioned hotel and have a coffee. One day I started feeling restless and I came back to my house. Sarala has gone for vegetables. I closed in the room, changed my clothes and lay down on my cot. Suddenly the door-bell rang – “Might be Sarala…..”
I got up and opened the door. I found Shobha standing before me.
“How is it that you have come very early?” She asked.
“Oh yes! I was not feeling well.” I replied however giving up the feelings regarding my health.
“Sarala has just left for the purchase of vegetables. It will take her half an hour to return. I thought to meet you as I saw you coming. I too, thought that you might not be feeling well.”
“Come in.” I said. I was getting hot. She came in and closed the door. Both of us well knew each other. The chance, I was looking for has come without any effort.
Both of us arrived in the middle room. My heartbeats increased. Shobha was before me and still half an hour to go for Sarala to come and…
“I want to talk to you in private.” She said, “Let us go inside.” I could not utter a single wand. Both of us entered the inside room, It was dusk time. I did not switch-on.
“Are we alone?” She asked in a hushed voice.
“Yes. There is nobody in the flat except we two.”
She slipped away a little and closed the door of the inner-room and said, “I don’t like to be seen by others.
There was silence in the room. She signed me to come closer to her. I was attracted. I thought, I would start shivering (trembling).
She looked in to my eyes and started saying, “I have come to speak something to you; listen. Everyday, at about six, a man comes to meet your wife. Do you know?”
I was overwhelmed, frightened out of wits, horrified and started trembling.

 

Author: Chandrakant Baxi
Translation: Mahendra Bhatt, Ahmedabad

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