Dev Bhardwaj was born on November 20, 1948 at Village Marar, Dist. Gurdaspur (Punjab), India. He got his school education at his village and higher education at Chandigarh, where he is settled since 1966. He has written several books of short-stories, plays and children books besides translating some world famous classics into Punjabi. Honoured by Chandigarh Sahitya Academi for his outstanding contribution in the field of Literature, he is Editor of Kafla Inter-Continental and lives in Chandigarh (India) email: email@example.com
Translated by Gurdev Chauhan (Canada)
Chanderbhan showered his love upon both his kids. It was not only them that he loved so much, he was also all love for his wife. But his wife and his elder son, Shanty, sometimes thought that he loved his younger son, Bunty, more. Maybe it was Bunty's abundance of love for his father that spoke for the reason. That was why, Bunty slept with his father rather than with his mother. Bunty stayed awake till his dad didn't come to sleep with him, his eyes not missing even a wink. He was always like this, all agog for his father to come to sleep with him on the cot.
In the evenings, Chanbhan had nothing to do except to tell his kids stories of days long gone. From where did he pick up those? Maybe from his mother and father or his grandmother. He had not gone to any school. That is why he worked hard to make ends meet. Sometimes he hauled loads in the grain market. When there was no work there, he went to work on the roads where some kind of work was always going on. He, then, filled up earth or dug it or did some other odd labour job they put him on. He didn't not remember how many foundations of houses he had worked on and how many roofs of houses. Wherever there was work, he went there. He never flinched. He would say when you have to do labour why not do it with all your heart. When one put his heart in his work then no work was difficult. On the other hand, all the difficulties would go away. Thinking like that, Chanderbhan was pulling the heavy loaded cart of his life.
When he returned home after the day's work, he had only two things on his mind to do. One, to take his meal and the second to play with his children and after that to go to his bed with Bunty. Bunty was hardly one year, when he had wrestled his right from his dad to sleep with him. In this doing, his mother's hand was more pronounced than his. Mother had to work in the kitchen and Bunty would begin to weep endlessly insisting to be taken up on her lap. Mother had difficulty working with Bunty astride her. The elder son, Shunty, was never obstinate about such things. He just would sit playing in the house. When Shunty grew up a bit more, he got himself busy playing games of his, alone. He too liked that Bunty should play with him but Bunty was made of strange clay. When he wept, he would go nonstop heeding no one. Whatever toy you give him, he would just go demanding the one he happened to have a fresh craze for.
By the time Chanderbhan came home in the evening, he was dead tired to go out anywhere on the streets with Bunty on his shoulder. But Bunty had somehow to be tackled. So he had devised a formula to amuse him. He would lie on the bed with Bunty on his belly. He would, then, shake his belly that made Bunty laugh and ask for more tumultuous rides. Bunty felt as if he got a cradle. So he would stop weeping and most times went asleep on dad's belly.
Bunty was deep in love with dad's belly. Even when his dad made him get out from over his belly and made him lie on the bed, Bunty would nevertheless keep his hand or leg on dad's belly as if there were some connection between the two, never to be broken. Even when he slept on the bed it seemed to Bunty as if he were sleeping on his dad's belly.
Now Bunty was seven. But he still insisted on going to bed with his dad and felt no shame sitting upside down on dad's belly. And he didn't want to go to bed with any other. Sleep he must, but on his dad's bed only that too with his leg or hand resting on dad's belly. If he didn't do this, he would not get asleep so very soon.
But from the last few days, Bunty was not keeping well. He didn't like anything. He wouldn't drink or eat anything. Bunty felt his head getting more and more heavy as the days passed. He just wanted to keep lying on the bed, all the time. Chanderbhan took him to one or two doctors, but even they could not find what was wrong with him. They prescribed some medicines and asked to be kept in touch. But Bunty was far from improving.
Now Chanderbhan also lost his mind in his work. His attention always turned towards Bunty and to no other thing. When your mind is not in your work how can you do it in a good way.
And then one night when he was about to fall asleep lying on the bed with Bunty beside him, he was overcome by some strange feeling which so overwhelmed him that he started muttering all kind of nonsense out loud like mad. It was all abracadabra. He himself didn't know what it all was. His wife heard him garbling to himself but she could not make out what it all was about. But on the lips of them both, Bunty's name could be heard every now and then.
What happened was, that when all of a sudden, Chanderbhan put his hand on Bunty's head and began stroke his scalpel, his fingers suddenly shuddered to a stop. It took him a while to know that Bunty's head had developed some kind of outgrowth. When he tried to grope the place more closely, he felt as if the swelling had gone more pronounced. When he looked up more close, he saw a clear lump on Bunty's head. He was so shocked he rushed to his wife working in the kitchen.
This was a very grave matter but what could they do? His wife, though weak of body, was quite steely as regards her will. She hugged the sleeping Bunty to her and took him to bed. After many years, Bunty was tonight sleeping with his mother. Chanderbhan walked aimlessly for quite some time before going to his bed.
It was morning now. A very different kind of moment for them. Bunty had a rubber ball like lump grown on his head. They were greatly perturbed but to Bunty it seemed all normal. He had no pain and felt okay. But he was surprised to feel a lump on his head. They had shown him the wart with a mirror.
For Chanderbhan, the world had grounded to a halt at this juncture. He was rendered useless to do anything. He did not want to leave Bunty at his mercy, in the state he was in. He didn't want to go for work. He took Bunty to a different doctor thinking that the bulge was a kind of benign tumour that the doctor would fix easily. But the mound on Bunty's head was beyond his ken. The doctor advised him to take the child to some big hospital. So he did as advised. There in that big hospital the doctors got busy taking one test after the other, and writing medicines to be broght from market. The doctors took the medicines he brought and gave them to Bunty to gulp them down with water. Chanderbhan was asked to bring more and more medicines and sometimes different ones too. Chanderbhan was reduced to doing this only. There was nothing else for him to do. Days passed, then the months and then a full year but there was no turn for the better for Bunty. Chanderbhan's money was all gone now. The lump on Bunty's head stayed the same. Chanderbhan went to work for one day and stayed four days making rounds of the hospital and the home. For how long a daily wage worker could afford to pull on doing this.
So their financial condition went from bad to worst. Now they had moved from their rented house to a shanty. His wife went houses to do housekeeping and other household chores thus earning something to carry on. No money could be found in the house. Whatever they both earned, went to buy medicines for Bunty. Chanderbhan was now reduced to being no better than a beggar. His friends, colleagues and relations turned their backs on him. Frustrated from all sides, he had almost given in.
One day he sat by the outer wall of the hospital, resting his tired back against it. He had come to show Bunty to the doctor but the doctor had not yet turned up. He must have sat a long time like this with Bunty sitting in front both in engulfed in painful silence. From the time the lump had come up on Bunty's head, they both had began to stay sullen like that.
The father and the son were sitting or lying on the bare ground by the hospital wall. They knew not how it happened and when. People came and went away throwing coins or putting some lower denomination notes in their front. By the time Chanderbhan came to know what was happening, it had turned night. He saw the notes and coins lying about in their front. He counted them and the aggregate turned out to be a handsome amount. Who could be they, their silent sympathisers? From where had they come and where had they had gone! It was quite a riddle for Chanderbhan. When home later that night, he told his wife that Bunty needed much money to get well and the people visiting the hospital were helping him with the money.
He would sit daily likewise during the day resting against the hospital wall and by the evening quite a good amount was collected. Now all the bad days of his poverty were gone. Now the lump on Bunty's head no longer disturbed him. He rather began to adore it. He would lovingly stroke the lump and said," Son! Do you feel pain?" Bunty would say," No Papa."
By now Bunty's treatment had stopped. Chanderbhan had made their hospital visit a daily routine He never missed it. He took Bunty to the hospital every morning. It went on like this and he totally forgot all about the past. His wife said that if Bunty was not being given any treatment what was the purpose to take him daily to the hospital. The best thing was that he should again find some work to do. But for Chanderbhan, doing any type of labour was very difficult. He was earning handsomely without doing anything.
One day when Chanderbhan was lying with Bunty in the bed waiting for sleep to come, he suddenly took his hand to where the lump was. It looked as if the lump was sagging slowly. He tried to grope the hump with his fingers. The blob of flesh went more and more small till it was totally gone and Bunty's head became totally free from it. Chanderbhan began to speak loudly whatever came to his mind, God knows what. Chanderbhan's wife who was listening to him could not make out what it all was. However, on the lips of both, Bunty's name could be heard now and then. Buty's mother took him to her bed. Chanderbhan staggered here or there before going back to his bed.
When in the morning they awoke, they were wonderstruck. The lump was totally gone. No sign of it was left, as if it never did exist at all.
Bunty was happy. Bunty's mother was happy. And Shunty was most happy. But Chanderbhan was flabbergasted. He was drowned in some deep sorrowing thought. He was sad... utterly sad.....