Betal Aur Betal

 Betal Aur Betal

Fiction

"Hey, Preets, see what I’ve got for you".

"Wow! A new salwar set? Lemme open the pack. Oh-oh , it’s a candy pink."

"You like it? For our special day , honey".

"Shree sweetie pie, I …don’t like this color. Why didn’t you take me along? Can we exchange this for another one… something that’s sober ?"

"Oh. You don’t want to wear the first gift I got for you after our marriage. Fine.  Let’s go to T .Nagar now".

"Hey, Srikanth, sorry. We won’t return it. So what if it’s candy pink, I ‘d wear it."

"You don’t have to wear something just to please me Preets. Let’s go to that shop and exchange this".

"If you don’t mind, Shree"

"Let’s go."

And the lady didn’t notice the steel in her man’s face.

They were going shopping and that’s all that mattered.

When they reached that "temple of garments", she practically whooshed in to it full speed.

He followed her with the same steely expression.

She ran in to the section where he had bought that dress, looked at some 150 odd pieces, selected one after three hours and the shop assistant sighed with relief.

"Thanks da Shree. You are ch…….ooo chweet."

No response. She said she had to check out all the floors and the other sections and he followed with the same amount of steel in his face.

They went home and she wore the new salwar kameez she had selected herself.

It was a "copper sulphate" blue and she fished out matching accessories in a hurry .She admired her blue radiance in the mirror.

Their first wedding anniversary!

May be she should ask him to arrange for a short trip somewhere…

Blue sea, brown sand and no dishes to do!

She floated in to the living room where the chunk of steel was sitting apparently reading some magazine, not really caring it was held upside down.

She pranced around the room like a Menaka with shoulder-length hair.

"Shree, do I look nice? This is the shade Simran wears in that movie and that new girl in …you know the Maddy starrer…"

"Shree, nice blue, isn’t it?"

Shreekanth the chunk of steel had become an Antarctic iceberg, one that wasn’t going to melt anytime sooner.

"Yeah", "Yes" and "Oh" were dropped from time to time but no eye contact. And no attempt to hold the magazine in a way it could be read.

Preethi the peacock went to bed wondering what went wrong.

*********************************************************************

"Ratna , "Do you think Shree hated that shade of blue?"

Ratna the unpaid marriage counselor choked on her hot chocolate. She had thought her project was miserable but some colleagues could make miserable more miserable.

"Preets, I think he didn’t like the fact that you even thought of exchanging his gift for another one."

"But he said we could exchange. I offered not to but…"

"He can be a clam who will drive you nuts with his silence .How did he act this morning?"

"The same , Ratna. No eye contact. No words. Just "hmpphh"  in many tones. I can’t believe it’s the same Shree I knew earlier. He dropped me here but didn’t even say bye. I feel like crying."

"So the Betal*  is sitting on that drumstick tree and refusing to see reason. I‘ll talk to him about this. After all we are friends. And, for heaven’s sake it’s your wedding anniversary week. If that rascal thinks he can get away with this he’s mistaken."

Ratna was suddenly furious.

She hated it when people cried . And Preethi was an  younger sister she never had and she could not bear to watch Preethi crying.

"Shree had to be pulled up!"She thought, "But, no, he had to be approached in a calm manner.Heart matters and all that sort of stuff."

"If you think it’ll help. Ratna, please talk to him, I am sure he won’t mind. And …act as though you and I didn’t have any talk about this. He…is all I have. Sniff".

Ratna the UMC called Shreekanth the man turned icy cyborg. [At some point the Antarctic iceberg had become an i-cyborg] and casually started a conversation.

She casually wondered why Preets looked miserable and kept chanting the name Shree when she ought to have been working and…the i-cyborg melted a little.

"Oh, that canary green shirt you wore that day was her gift? Cute of you to wear that. She just blurted out what was in her mind when she saw the gift and when she realized you were upset , offered to wear the candy pink .No..no …please listen…cold war is bad ,instead you should talk it out and sort matters." Ratna tried to reason.

"…………………………………………………………………."

"She’d wear whatever you buy for her. Why don’t you select another dress for her?"

Preethi brightened.

I-cyborg became human again , called his wife of almost one year and they talked. Normally at first and then some giggles later, in a much lower volume, a volume that only loving [ at that moment at least] couples can manage .

Ratna smiled.

She adjusted her saint’s halo and tried to concentrate on her work.

"He offered to buy another dress for me! I told him he could select that one! He is a dear! He may be a clam but he is one chweet clam! Truce! "

Preethi almost flew out of Ratna’s workspace.

Ratna smiled again .

A little later Preethi came to her work station with red eyes and an even redder face.

Now what? Ratna wondered.

"You know what? He is unbearable! I am not going to talk to him at all!He went and bought a sari with yellow and brown checks…yellow and brown checks! I didn’t mind that but he said his colleague , that saucy looking Shilpa,wore a similar one and looked great in it! How dare he compare me to her!I am not going to talk to him at all!"

Ratna sighed. For all she cared at that moment, betal couples could live anywhere on any drumstick tree. Her project was fantastic and she should have concentrated on it in the first place.

Preethi was saying something about slimy Shilpas and asking her what she should do .

Ratna simply wanted to run away somewhere.

**************************************************************

"What do you think will happen to this couple?"

"As a policy decision, I don’t answer questions on love and marriage. Get off my back, Betal."

"Why do you think stubborn humans are sometimes compared to betals who sit on top of a tree branch?"

"Metaphorically some humans hold on to some ideas, say, a tree branch and refuse to give some and take some. But I think no betal can be compared to unreasonable humans. Unreasonable humans are a class by themselves. And the job of a honorary marriage counselor is a bad job to do."

Betal the ghost grinned.

"Attaboy Vikram! Where do you think this couple will be in, say fifty years?"

"He would be eighty and she, seventy five."

"You don’t really want me to get off your back. I asked in a philosophical way."

"I answered in the same way…they would squabble more and much much more when children happen but they’d realize the difference between wars and battles. And they’d survive as a couple.I mean people can travel in parallel lines at times and still be a couple , don’t you think?"

"Hehehe, what a treatise on marriage! You sound like chicken soup. Vikky dear , you sort of answered my questions. Now as per our ground rules, it’s time for me to leave you until …next time I come up with another story and another challenge. But…"

"But what?"

"You generally switch your cell phone off when we meet at nights in this graveyard. Your wife knows this and sent an SMS to me, to be conveyed to you."

Betal grinned widely but as Vikram was carrying him on his back that expression went unnoticed.

"Vikki, there are five messages in all. All saying the same thing. Your wife wants to go shopping and warns you to be more patient than usual. Bye Dear Vikram …for now."

Betal smirked and got off Vikram’s back but strangely, Vikram suddenly felt heavier…

*****************************************************************

Previously posted in Sulekha .From this link

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baital_Pachisi

Baital Pachisi or Vetala Panchvimshati ("Twenty five tales of Baital") or Vikram and The Vampire is a collection of tales and legends from India. It was originally written in Sanskrit. Like Arabian Nights, it is a set of tales, within a frame story.

The story revolves around the semi-legendary King Vikram, identified as Vikramāditya (c. 1st century BC). Vikram promises a yogi to bring him the Baital (or Vetala in Sanskrit), a huge vampire. Baital hangs on a tree and inhabits and animates dead bodies. Vikram faces many difficulties in bringing the Baital to the yogi. A series of Hindufairy tales are strung on this frame story, which typically include the following sequence:

The Baital agrees to accompany the Vikram, provided the latter does not speak.

The Baital tells Vikram a tale in which one or more characters’ behaviour seems to be awkward or unjust.

The Baital concludes the tale with a question about the character’s behaviour, which is actually a cleverly-disguised riddle about righteousness and/or politics.

 Vikram answers and succeeds in justifying the character’s behaviour.

As Vikram speaks, violating their agreement, the Baital flies back to the tree.

 

 *********************************************************************

 Previously posted in Sulekha blogs at this link.

http://narensomu.sulekha.com/blog/post/2007/10/betal-aur-betal.htm

Dedicated to all those chivalrous souls who face the prospect of shopping and who [with or without any understanding ] stand by quietly when their beloved ladies do their shopping.

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