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Shoes of Heart’s Desire
Pravin Gadhvi
Translation: Harish Mahuvakar

Gagi was walking on a way. Beside it lay a hedge of their small farms. The dusty cacti were dirty and grey. A butterfly was taking circles on the thorny hedge. Gagi caught it swiftly but elegantly. It had light yellow wings and it had small red dots too. Gagi was pleased with the wings design. She wished to stitch it on her blouse. If they are caught in plenty you can hand over them to the tailor. But the tailor, silly one, feels he’s polluted if he touches for the measurement. So he looks at the breasts and measures accordingly. ‘Well, you’re Parma’s daughter, right? You can throw cloth pieces but what about these butterflies? As you free them they fly. She began to whisper a song, ‘O Taylor, I say you’re my brother and request you…’ Then she freed the butterfly. It flew and few and went far away.
Paheladbhai too holds like this and then let go. He works on iron and if she passes by for any errand job quickly he holds my hands.
‘Leave…’ she jerks.
‘Leave please. Someone will find out. You will be polluted and ashamed.’
‘Leave I say. I have a work on hand. Me not idle like you.’
‘Leave me I say you. I’ll shout and collect all…’
Pehlad left her hand on someone’s arrival. And resume the work as if nothing happened. Then gives a gentle flying kiss. She feels she’s floating in the air as she does it in the pond. It’s that sort of tickling when you are going down on a merry go round wheel. He winks and it pierces the heart like a thorn. What a bad thing! If someone finds out, then? He behaves as if he is not afraid of anybody. Doesn’t feel polluted when he holds my hand!
Once he just made a mischief and on came a mason. How was he confused! ‘I don’t believe in such a thing but have to respect people.’
His heart’s ever on work. Whenever you see you find him looking at you always. When he strikes his fingers by negligence how happy I become! The finger bleeds…blood…and blood…’
‘Didn’t I say don’t continue to stare.’
‘But you come and on this place. What else I do?’
‘So should I leave?’
‘Wonderfully said! Me on wages. Five rupees a day. Why should I leave?
‘Go to the heath and collect berries.’
‘Don’t like that place now.’
Gagi doesn’t like this place. She went there before she found this work. A few boys of the Vas accompanied her. She was the eldest so they followed what she said. Any boy bent on her order. She tucked her frock and jumped over him. First a single boy and then two boys bent together and she jumped. ‘Single and Double’ is the game. She often pushed the bent boy while jumping. She burst in laughter when that fell.
At noon she jumped in Vajesar – a pond. The boys too bathed with her. She tells them, ‘be away. Not to see me. If any does, it’s sinful.’ She would swim to the Jeetela-creepers at the centre of the pond.
‘Gagiben don’t go there. There’s a snake.’
‘Devil take him’, she said and pulled the creepers. She comes out with it and on it would be its fruits everywhere. Gave one fruit to each one. The remaining ones are hers. Tasty as ghee. Even you lick fingers.
After it follows the game of Stone Flinging. Gagi sends stones so far on the pond that the boys complained,’ Who go there? We sink.’
‘Ah, it’s me. Who else?’ she swims across the center. Dips down and finds out the flung stone.’ The goats grazed gentle grass and time passed.
Later on Gagi walks up to an entangled mass of plants and creepers. ‘See, none of you come this side. If any one comes may he face Brahmhatya.’ Sin of killing a Brahmin. Gagi removed her blouse and petticoat and dry them up. She too sat cross- legged and dried herself, drops fell from her hair. She watches her breasts: small growing berry like!
‘Gagiben look that Jeho doesn’t care.’ A naughty boy came to there. She abused him and ran behind him with a stone. ‘Didn’t I tell you not to come over here?’ She forgets she’s necked. And as she comes to know it she runs to hide at such another place.
Since two or three weeks last, she is on wages at Gandhi sheth bungalow. A draught year. Cheap labour is found. So Gandhi sheth has started to build a three storey bungalow. Ground floor for shops and others for living. Have to fetch water in pots and drop in to big containers. Fill the troughs with soil and cement, carry the bricks up, and there sits Pehladbhai on his work. He won’t have heart in the work but watched me all the time.
On each pot dropping he looks at me. Wide open would be his eyes.
‘What’s here that you look at me like that?’
‘Gagi, would you go to the fair on the full moon day?
‘I’ll go. You come. Full joy there.’
‘I don’t want any.’
‘But you visit once.’
‘What’s there?’
‘Many things. Did you ride merry go round anytime?’
‘No. Who’ll take trouble?’
‘Oh you’ll? If any one finds out you make a show of being polluted.’ Pehlad makes a cunning smile. ‘Ye, have to respect people a little bit.’
The next day she wished to ask, ‘When do you go? Call me.’
‘All would see and you will sit beside me on it?’
Still ten days are to go but Gagi’s mind is lost in it. On each step she thinks of the fair. Sweet flute tunes are heard. A silky red hanky with tinkling bells flutters before her eyes.
Pehladbhai came from the other village. He lives alone. ‘Come at noon. We’ll sit for a while and talk.’
‘Talks what about?’
‘Whatever in your mind.
‘E…r..of city. What’s there in a city? Pehladbhai ,have ever been to Mumbai?’
‘Oh yes. I stayed in Mumbai for two years.’
‘You’re boasting. I don’t think you have ever been to Patan. You think I don’t understand?’
Pehladbhai has a room on rent. He stays there. ‘Pehaldbhai are you married or unmarried?’
‘Couldn’t get. Answer me properly.’
‘Was married but she died.’
‘Then you’re a widower. That’s why you have no bangles on your hand.’
‘Within fifteen days Gagi ,your tongue has become sharp.’
Gagi walked down and stood under a neem tree at the Sepoy house. The neem tree had a fine bloom with tiny white flowers. Its white flower lines hung like a pearl earring. Jagirmiya rested on a cot wrapping himself with a sheet. His horse stood there and was shaking a back leg. The way leads to the bazaar and through it you can reach Luhana Maholla- a colony of Luhana people. But she isn’t used to it. Her own people went to there and other places. But they won’t walk through this bazaar. Because here on midway, falls the Colony of the Kshatriyas. You have to remove shoes, cover head, and get off the bicycle. Moreover have to walk close to the walls.
Pehladbhai lives in this Luhana Maholla. So that no one finds her there she cautiously entered into narrow lane and stood at the door of his house. The street end was open so wind blew from that side.
‘Oh Gagi, you came?’
‘I thought you won’t come. None’s seen you?’ Perhaps he had somewhat fear.
‘Why are you fearful?’
‘But you came to here. This is Luhana’s place. They are polluted even by your shadow.’
‘Stay here. Let me close the door. None can see us.’ He closed it. It made a creaking sound. And then it followed the noise of chain.
‘Gagi watched the room. A mattress was spread. In a corner lay a water-pot, Primus- a kerosene stove, and some painted tin containers. In the other corner lay the blacksmith tools. A sparrow was trying to set a straw between two wall bricks. She felt thirsty, but had no courage to demand. ‘If she drinks water from an upper class house thirst isn’t quenched. None of them spoke for a while. ‘Take a seat here. Why are you there at the door?’
‘I can’t come. You’ll be polluted.’
‘Pehlad got up. ‘Who’s to watch here? Nothing like that.’ He caught her hands and again said, ‘Come on.’
Pehlad pulled her to his bosom and closed the door completely. Her hear began to throb heavily. She felt like the fluttering of a dove that is in the jaws of a dog.
‘You have possessed me. Day and night I miss you. As I close my eyes you come before me.’ His hot breath touched her ears.
‘So you think I don’t feel anything? But you ain’t to marry me?’ Pehlad laughed. ‘I’ll take you to Mumbai. Nobody cares there for such pollution. Nobody knows there anyone.
Gagi thought how would it be lovely to live in a city? Pehlad very quickly hugged her. Gagi tried to free herself. ‘Stay a far. Don’t do such a thing.’ It was strange thing for Gagi that an upper class man touches her.
‘You are going to fair, aren’t you?’
‘O yes, but any village folk finds out?’
‘You go alone. I will also go alone. Who knows us there?
‘What will you buy for me?’
‘You’ll see it yourself. What you say I will buy’, said he pressed her. ‘I have a great desire to put on embroidery stitched chappals and walk on the mid- market.’ She told him and tried to slip. But before she could do it Pehlad was on her. He was very hot. His breath blew like Jayestha month wind. Again she tried to free but she hurt at feet. Something pierced there. As if her heart broke. Pehlad belongs to the upper class and me to a mean one. Suddenly she felt that she was deceived as Chempo does to the village folk in jiggery weigh. Pehlad was a cunning one and had trapped her. She had lost herself. Many Kshatriya men have looted the Vas girls like this. On the very next moment she pushed him down and got up. She was trembling all over. Her lips fluttered. Her eyes burnt with pain. Pehlad tried to catch her but she jolted him, opened the door, and ran hard.
She was like the Vijesar pond filled to the brim. Suddenly a wall broke down and it emptied completely. She just was playing with the butterfly wings and they were cut from the roots. She climbed up to an eagle nest and an egg fell down and shattered. Now eagles chased her. She ran and ran. She knew nothing whether it was bazaar or something else. On a hot bazar way she ran bare feet. The breast heaved. She bled. It was also hot. Hot blood. She knew she was polluted. She didn’t how hurriedly she reached her home. Outside at the home the Mother was preparing a broom. She threw herself in her lap and she began to cry loudly.