Najuk Rishte ‘Delicate Relations’ – S K Garg
It was 1971, I was 18 and she was 14. I was assigned to tuition her in Math @ Rs 40 a month. My aim was to make some money on my own. I would do my job quickly and efficiently even without looking at her face. She used to study very attentively for some time and then would start testing my General Knowledge.
Days passed by, she would rebel against my approach. We used to quarrel at times. One day I addressed her as Sister. She was dumb and surprised. She felt how a person who is not real could be her brother. For many days, she would argue with me that only a real brother can be brother to her not an outsider. I would say, it depends on one’s feeling and likes and dislikes and an outsider who is not related by blood can be a brother. Her arguments became aggressive. I would keep mum and at times felt hurt because of her aggressively putting her view point.
After many days, I learnt that she had 2 elder brothers who had died in early childhood. She had not even seen them. She had 3 sisters and she strongly yearned for a brother and at times would remember the ones whom she had not even seen. I stopped contradicting her and concentrated on my job of teaching Math. After some time, she called me ‘bhai’. Now she will obediently follow my instructions and concentrate on her studies. After a few months, it was exam time and tuition work will cease. She was sad that she will not see me after exams as tuition work will start after 6 to 8 months.
Exams brought better results. No communication, no congratulations, no sweets as those were the days of restrictive interaction between young boys and girls. I remember on rakhi day, her younger sister helped us to meet for a brief time. She had prepared a rakhi in 3 colors of tricolor with her own hands. I gave her a book as present and we departed.
After many months, her family again engaged me for tuition. That is how we met again. She will always worry about separation after a few months. I too was emotionally attached to her. I would hold her hand and would teach her, feed her with my own hands and embrace her at times. We knew time will again take us apart. Exams were about to start and there was more pressure on studies and more worry about separation. Finally, we were into the last week after which tuition will cease. She was very sad. Suddenly, she had her arms around me. I held her in my lap and we started sobbing. Her mother entered the room suddenly and saw her clinging to me. She separated herself and went away to another room. I talked to her mother a bit and came out of their home.
Then we never saw each other, never talked and deep in our hearts, we were bound by a sacred thread. No festivals brought us together. I would remember her now and then. Every good occasion of celebration used to make me sad as my sister was never around.
I moved far away for my job after completing my education. She got married at an early age. I remember having got message about her scheduled marriage through my brother and I travelled 15 km to the town to send a telegram of good wishes, but as I was about to send the message, I had walked out of the queue as again the fear of somebody feeling bad about my telegram. Ultimately, who was I to her? Perhaps nothing. I was not even sure whether she even remembered me or consider me a brother.
Sad feelings have started taking its toll. I will start feel sad and at times tears will flow from my eyes if I saw a small boy and girl playing around. I used to go to a lonely place to cry for a while as I never wanted anybody should notice me weeping. For whom?
Years passed by. I got married and had my children. I never discussed her with anybody. I did not know where she was. One day after 31 years, I was abroad and I googled for her. To my surprise, her where about were there on the net. She had done her Phd and was serving as faculty in the university. On return from abroad, one day I took up courage to see her from a distance. As I entered her department, we were face to face. My scheme of seeing her from a distance and then going away without talking to her had failed. We greeted each other. Our families met and I remained in touch with her for some time.
I was abroad when I sent her a gift after rakhi. She refused accepting the gift. I pleaded but she was feeling awkward and did not accept. I realized that day, how delicate relations are. I stopped meeting her or calling her or sending her an email. Ten years have passed. We are at fag end of ourlives. We have not met. I do not think we will meet. She was right that how can somebody who is not related could be a brother. I learnt it the hard way.