A Diary Without Dates (Translated from Hindi)

Author: Pramila Verma

Translator: Anjali Bahuguna

The diary was lying open on the table with all his letters strewn here and there. Papa had written these letters but perhaps they were never posted. His pain was clearly depicted through his letters and the pages of the diary. Staggered and amazed she went on turning the pages of the diary. Thoughts went on tumbling in her mind. She remembered the one face which would peek from behind her shoulders. Her father’s. Whenever she would sit on the study table her father would peek from behind and she always caressed his face.

Thirteen days had still not passed of her father’s demise and she learnt the bitter truth. She, Swati, her father’s adorable daughter was not his biological daughter. She felt like screaming and no matter how much she tried to stop a stifled scream came out of her throat. 

Neeraj came running and immediately held on to an almost unconscious Swati repeatedly asking her what happened? Say something Swati he went on saying.

Look! she says pointing towards the diary with her eyes closed and her heart fluttering wildly. No no this can’t be she mumbles, papa, no no.. Neeraj immediately picks up the diary. Read it she says. The pages of the dateless diary lay open. 

Diary (August)

I asked Monica – when you saw Shreedharan for the first time did you hear bells ringing in your heart? It was perhaps a strange question. I, myself was surprised at my question. Monica gave me a detached look and then she accepted.

I stood looking out of the window at the uneven soil and the bushes grown on it for hours. Evening had set in. I looked at the bushes that had intertwined together and somehow pushed to one side and were sporting pointed thorns. My feet felt like lead and my knees were wobbling. Was I really breaking down?. Shattered!! Perhaps I was busy being a successful lawyer and didn’t give a thought to Monica? And always thought that I had amassed all this wealth and success for her after all? In my busy schedule perhaps I had forgotten that Monica was also a human?

Diary (a lonely December night)

It was a lonely night of December when I had gone to pick up Monica from airport. She was bubbling like a young girl the whole ride back home. She had been the only Assistant Professor from her college that had gone to read a research paper in London. Professors, Readers and Lecturers from the entire country – Vishakhapatnam, Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi, Bombay, Kolkata and Patna, had gathered there. Dr, Shreedharan came from Chennai, who is a Professor as well as internationally renowned scientist. The news of his research papers had been published in well-known newspapers of London. It seemed as if she wanted to tell me everything today itself. We reached home, had dinner together and when we lay down I tried bringing her closer to me and making love but she refused saying she is tired and sleepy.

She was wearing a red fluffy sweater with sleeves almost covering her fingers and pulled the sheet till her chest. I still peeped to see whether she was really sleeping and smelt whiff of cigarette from her sweater. I recollected that the smell of cigarette was similar to what my friend Vinay smoked. Charminar cigarette. I was shocked and disturbed. I felt Monica has become distant from me and couldn’t even get to touch her. Deeply disheartened I went out and sat on the sofa smoking cigarette after cigarette.

Diary (another December night)

Monica got up in the morning and started completing her chores. She had to leave early for college.
I did not ask her or complain about anything in the night. Could not fathom what was going on in her mind. It was a long trip that she had gone to. She had only said on phone that they will be in London for ten days and then will tour the entire Europe. I did not even ask that who she all she was going with. Whether she is going with all teachers, professors and readers or only with Sreedharan? Monica had returned after 40 days. Days went on. He would return from the court and find tea on the table along with untouched snacks. Probably made only for him. He would have tea and snacks alone and Monica would be reclining on the bed busy with her phone. He started feeling desolate and dejected.

One day I decided and talked to her directly. I said that I know that you have started loving Sreedharan but tell me what is my role in your life? We have together built this abode and our life so why now you have shown me the darkness? She looked at me with surprise as if asking what she has done?

And then she said I want some meaning in my life even if it is a small one. Sometimes one spends an entire life searching for that meaning Vakil Sahab!

I asked her so have you got the meaning now? She muttered yes somewhat and got lost in her thoughts. Perhaps her London trip!

Diary (end of December)

I am tired and sad today, although it is nothing new. I feel tired and sad almost every day. Even sleeping makes me tired. I get up tired as I am not sleeping properly. I remain awake for hours trying to piece together my broken dreams. And when I am unable to control my emotions and my broken self I get up and open the window which overlooks the thorny bushes and new thorns. Resting my head on the window pane I imagine a beautiful sunset when it is actually the time of sunrise that has actually happened. I try to imagine the shadows in the sun and often look for sun and its light in the darkness of the night. I look for sun moving my eyes in the horizon. The sun that is already shining bright somewhere else, perhaps in London! I could not fathom the shadows but my eyes were filled with blue light and strange caricatures.

Diary (Beginning of January)

Returning from court I was sitting alone outside and remembering the moments when this vine of Jasmine smelt and looked so beautiful. We would enjoy the fragrance when we were together. But these days the only smell that lingered and tormented me was the smell of Charminar cigarette. Sitting alone I would keep on smoking and filling the ashtray with studs. On some days I would jostle with my law books with frustration.

What about my meaning in Life? Do I have any? I started feeling that my mental state has reached a point where I need a counselor now. And then his elder sister from Chicago called him. She was his only sister and needed advice on some legal issues. He thought of sharing his plight with his sister as they used to do in their childhood. But this time it was the issue of Monica. Could he share with his sister? After all who better than her to give advice.

He spent three months in Chicago. He had gone with the hope of finding peace and solace and probably a new meaning in life. But nothing like this happened. In fact the days there were even more painful and full of tension. Monica was pregnant, full four months pregnant! And was glowing. Sreedharan had after all taken possession of her womb first! Days went on as before. Monica looked after me and everything else as though nothing has changed.

Diary (Beginning of March)

These were the days of autumn. Actually aatumn was also passing off. New and tender leaves had started growing on Gulmohar tree. I was standing beneath the tree with a heavy heart. Sadness had creeped in my nature. Despite feeling dejected I daily went to the court and came back home. I routinely met my clients but also realized that I had started arguing more in the court. Standing beneath the tree I started breathing heavily and conjured up the image of Monica searching meaning in it. Is this the meaning of true friendship? Has Monica achieved the meaning of it?. Then why I have been made to bear this relationship which denies me the right to touch also?

Diary (Second week of April)

I cannot get myself to misbehave with Monica. She was getting more and more distant from me. She looked more beautiful due to pregnancy. She would go alone to the hospital for routine check-ups. She took her food as per the diet chart pasted alongside the dining table. She never expected anything from me probably thinking that why he should take care of her when she was carrying Shreedharan’s child. And probably she was right. She would have been disappointed if she had kept any expectation. She spent most of her time in the library room of the house as she would be talking till late night to Shreedharan.

Diary (August)

I was often wondering as to what crime I had committed that I am going through all this? Often felt like crying. I rested my head to the window pane and looked up at the sky for Sunlight. But there was no Sun today. Waiting for the sunlight to fill me entirely so that I don’t crave for it later. Whenever I attempted to talk she changed the subject. Sister rang up from Chicago and congratulated Monica for the coming good news of motherhood. Maybe I had given her the news.

Diary (Hospital room no.5)

Monica called me up yesterday afternoon and asked me to come to the hospital. I was about to leave for the court and got jittery on receiving her call. I ran to the hospital after briefly explaining to my assistant. At the hospital I immediately checked in to their register and found her name Monica Ghanshyam (My name) Sahay and her room no.5. I was humbled on seeing her name. I was her husband! I rushed to the room and asked the nurse whether I could go inside. Nurse asked me to wait as her labor pains had started and delivery could be anytime now. I peeped inside the room through the glass on the door. I could not see anything but could hear muffled screams of pain. After about one and a half hour the door of the room opened and doctor came out.

Doctor saw me and asked whether I was her husband. I nodded. He said your wife has delivered a baby girl after a difficult and complicated delivery. She has suffered a lot. Anyways you can go and meet her.
I ran inside. Baby was not there as she was taken to intensive care as she had developed jaundice. Monica was lying with her eyes closed. She was sweating and her face showed her suffering. I silently wiped her face. I felt sympathetic towards her and gently stroked her hand and went to see the baby.
I was given a sterilized suit and gloves to enter the baby’s room so that I don’t infect the baby and other babies too. I looked at the baby and she was resembling Monica. She had pink hands and feet, black hair and her complexion was milky white. I was filled with love and admiration on seeing her. I wanted to touch her but was told not to do so. I just kept on staring. I totally forgot my pain, forgot that she was Shreedharan’s baby. She was my baby from head to toe!.

She kept holding the diary and wept inconsolably. No! my father was my father! No one can challenge his love, she cried. She went on reading further.

Diary (January)

My daughter turned 4 months and twenty days today. Monica had called up Shreedharan and informed him about her birth. She told him that Vakil Sahab has totally accepted the baby. We had made no such understanding but she is his daughter now. Our fruit of love is my husband’s darling daughter now, she said.

I had forgotten the pain given by Monica. Time had filled it with love for my daughter. Till the birth of the baby Monica had taken care of everything including the hospital bill. She also got discharged on her own. She never gave me any chance to taunt her, although I never wanted to. When I had gone to Allahabad on a court case Monica had asked Shreedharan to come and see the baby. When I returned I saw their photographs in the drawer of the study table. There were photographs of their London trip also. In one photograph Monica was sitting on the bed wearing the same long red sweater with her head on Shreedharan’s shoulder. Maybe Shreedharan had brought these photographs. I saw him for the first time but did not feel angry. My love for my daughter Swati had replaced all hatred and ill feelings.
Monica had gone to Chennai 2-3 times in the interval of three years along with Swati and appeared happy on her return. I used to be amazed at how she was dividing herself in two places. Shreedharan has a wife and two children in Chennai. I do not know whether they are aware of this. But Monica kept on going to Chennai from time to time on Shreedharan’s request.

Diary (February)

We have started coming closer to each other again. I was in a happy state for the simple reason that I love Monica a lot. I always sought her return when she was away from me. Monica did not go to Chennai again. Even her telephonic conversations to Shreedharan have reduced a lot. I have never asked her. Yes, I came to know that she used to send Swati’s photographs every year.

Monica was pregnant again. She had finally returned to me. I was busy keeping her happy and was in a happy state. She had cheated me with Shreedharan but who am I to punish her. The child is whose seed that only God can decide and my interference in it does not make any sense. The joy given to me maybe is not mine. If it was in my hands I would have filled the entire world with happiness. I have lately started being apprehensive and scared with my joys and dreams. Will they slip again? I have started keeping doors and windows closed lest they slip again. I was surprised when I opened the window one day to find a tall Ashok tree in place of thorny bushes.

Diary (November)

The days were glittery and the nights too! I was relieved that Monica is finally completely mine. My son was born in the same hospital where Swati was born. On seeing Monica that day I had remarked happily that now our family is complete. She was amazed.

Later, I heard her telling Shreedharan that can anyone be so good? But I was happy as Monica was mine now. I used to think that maybe Monica faulted but the same situation can happen with a man too. After all Shreedharan has also committed the same mistake.

Monica had returned from the hospital with our son and Swati was delighted on seeing her new brother, Anirudh. Swati was now four years old. I have named both the children. Elder sister had come from Chicago for the naming ceremony of Anirudh.

The pages of diary were not over yet. There were still unread pages but she understood the whole untold story.

She never felt in all these years that papa had loved Anirudh more. It was Swati who was his darling daughter. Infact he was always stern with Anirudh. He wanted Anirudh to be a responsible man and was always worried about his career. Anirudh wanted to be an engineer and papa supported him and he became an engineer. He was now serving in a multinational company in America. Swati obtained degree in English literature and became a lecturer in her mother’s college. Monica was diagnosed with breast cancer and it was in the last stage. All cures were proving futile. She wanted Swati to get married before she left. Swati got married to her colleague, Neeraj, but she was unable to leave her father after her mother’s demise. He had become totally alone. He still went to court but was in a depressed state. Swati clung to him like a friend and a mother. She used to share all her secrets with him. She had told about her relationship with Neeraj to him first. She had shared with him her episode of her first kiss with Neeraj. He had explained to her a lot about life. Mother was alive then but she never felt so close to her mother ever.

And now, after her father has left, reading those diaries of roughly 300 pages has left her startled and speechless. Two diaries were full of his life’s loneliness, the cheating of his wife, his dismembered soul, his quest to find solace and happiness in his own house, his undying love for his wife, accepting the return of his wife, his unadulterated and complete love for his daughter, his worries for his son, all lay bare in the pages of these diaries. And then his unending concern for his wife’s illness. When she left his dying slowly and slowly, All lay bare in front of her. There were unposted letters in the diary of the days when his life lost meaning. He had poured his heart out in those letters. She was crying inconsolably and bitterly with her head on Neeraj’s shoulders.

Neeraj, I want to go to Chennai, she said. 

What you will do there, he asked.

I want to meet my biological father and see his reactions on seeing his daughter, she said. She had obtained Chennai’s address and phone number from her mother’s diary.

She called up Dr Shreedharan and informed him of her father’s demise and also expressed her desire to meet him. He showed his delight and happiness on hearing from her about her visit and sadness at her father’s demise. Ghanshyam had broken after your mother’s demise, he said. She was quite upset on hearing from someone else that her father had suffered.

Neeraj and Swati completed all the rituals of her father and then fixed a date for Swati’s Chennai visit. She wanted to go there alone. Anirudh also wanted to leave for America immediately after completing all the rituals as his wife was pregnant and alone there. Her aunt could not come from Chicago on her father’s last rites as she was unwell. Bidding farewell to Anirudh after the 13th day ritual, Swati left for Chennai.

He did not come to receive her in Chennai. She was in contact with him as she was finding it difficult to locate the address due to language differences. With much difficulty she reached his house. His house was palatial and made entirely of white marble. It was a three storeyed bungalow with a huge garden and a fountain in front which must be glimmering with lights in the night she thought. She walked on the red graveled path, which felt like red carpet, from the gate to the porch of his house. She came to know that he was a member of the Rajya Sabha. The security at the gate informed the house about her name and address after which she was allowed to enter. As soon as she reached the entrance door of the house along with her small bag, the door swung open and she was led inside by a lady. She saw him sitting on a magnificent plush seated sofa. She felt no emotion or love on seeing him. She wished him and sat on the sofa as indicated by him. He was a dark complexion tall man, must have been a lighter version in his hey days, clad in a white dhoti-kurta, and her heart refused to accept him as her father. Maybe her father had misunderstood the whole thing, she thought. He got up a little, looked at her with love, and sat again.

Swati, you were very small, when I saw you, after that Monica only sent me your photographs, and never again met you before today, he said and asked her to sit beside him.

What will you have, he asked and beckoned the same woman.

Nothing, she said.

No that will not do, all right bring some freshly brewed coffee and we will have lunch later, he told the woman. She realized he was a telegu speaking person.

My wife has gone to America to be with my elder son and my younger son is in Bengalaru, and my daughter, well! you can see her in my eyes, he said. I am alone for quite some time, he further added. She was a little dazed at him referring to her as his daughter, but did not say anything. 

I got your photographs till you were 27 years old, and after that well…., he muttered. But you were always in my heart, never far from me, he spoke with a muffled and chocking voice. It appeared that he might cry any moment, but then controlled himself, perhaps he realized that she must be knowing the truth. And then laughingly he said that my good knowledge of hindi is because of Monica. She always corrected and taught me and was my inspiration.

I have been suffering from knee pain and maybe get them operated for knee replacement, he said emotionally and looked at her searching for approval and emotion. But she remained expressionless. She looked at him, his thin stick like black legs and his knees beneath his dhoti making cracking sounds on movement.

He was prepared for her arrival. He took out an album with photographs of him and her mother in their London trip. She saw her mother wearing the same red sweater, her father had described in his diary. There were photographs of the two of them in Paris, Switzerland, Rome and London, playing with snow, sitting in the Gas balloon and rope-way, just the two of them. They were looking happy and romantic. She closed her eyes. The photos went further. He was removing snow from her mother’s jersey, standing beneath the trees, sitting in the boat in the waterways, buying flowers, in the train, almost everywhere, and then in the hotel room she imagined them close.

He suddenly said, you have taken after your mother.

Yes, she wanted to scream. You are my biological father and my mother is my biological mother. But father! My father is only one and he was my father not you! Are you listening? There were no words. These unsaid words were struggling inside her.

He said, look! Is there still something left to see?, she thought.

Look, when you were born, countless photos of every month, every year, photos of every birthday, every occasion. And then she turned 27 and the photos stopped. Because her mother had died. Entire 27 years of her life were open in her front of her in form of photographs and now she was sitting there in person. 

They sat on the dining table for lunch, she kept on looking at him. He was eating only curd rice, although there was a spread of dishes on the table. She wanted to tell him not to eat curd when he was suffering from knee pain, but she never said.

She looked at his fingers holding the spoon and remembered her father’s fingers. They were just like hers, long, slender and fair. She remembered holding his fingers in the hospital. Her nose, her ears, lips, her forehead, the shape of her face, all resembled her father. In fact her aunt from Chicago had always said that she looks like her father. She has no resemblance to this man sitting in front of her now.
She stayed there for two days. He would take her out in his luxurious car, wearing only kurta and dhoti. He had told her that he now only wears this, where he earlier used to wear pant, shirts. He had by and large jet black hair with streaks of white, here and there.

He strolled with her on the sea beach, and sat with her on the sand. They also had coconut water. He explained to her about the local cuisine, she also tasted some.

He had a decently large library in his bungalow which had books written by him, journals having his research papers, theses of students guided by him. The walls of the library ere adorned by his photos, some receiving awards, being honoured by the President of the country, leading foreign delegations, speaking to the audience, attending seminars, etc. The cupboards were filled with shields and souvenirs from within the country and abroad. His personality must have been impressive, she thought. But in her she was impressed only with her father, he was her idol, her icon. Very emotionally he was saying, Swati, will you not keep coming and meeting me? Will you not bring Neeraj here? Can you not stay for some more time here? He had red eyes, filled with tears. She just bowed before him, folding her hands in a pranam gesture. He blessed her. She did not weep.

She had already written him off. She was going to tell Neeraj that she has met her mother’s lover. But my father is only one and will always remain in my heart and soul. Thinking of her father she started crying. Shreedharan, who had come to drop her sat beside her in the car and took her in his arms. But she had already left him and was not there.

Pramila Verma MA, Ph.D.

-Born on 16 August in Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh)
-Worked as a Feature Editor in various newspapers for almost two decades. More than 3000 articles published in various disciplines.
- 'Sakhi ki Baat' column writing on women's discourse which lasted for years. 
-Six short story books and joint novels published
-Stories compiled in several anthologies. Story published in 'Woman Storytellers of the Twentieth Century' (Volume Nine)
- Selected as one of the writer among 111 Hindi women writers of the 21st century in 'The Sunday Indian Magazine'.
-Woman authors: 'Autobiography in her mirror' published in book form.
-My story compiled in 'Katha Madhya Pradesh', a comprehensive collection of stories centered on the storytellers of undivided Madhya Pradesh - Contemporary, Story Volume-3
-Stories translated into many languages. 
-Editor of poetry, story collection. 
-Establishment of 'Hemant Foundation' in the memory of eminent litterateur Late Vijay Verma. For the last 20 years  providing "Vijay Varma Katha Samman" and "Hemant Smriti Kavita Samman".
Founder/Secretary of the Trust.

*Maharashtra Hindi Sahitya Akademi Award (1998-2013)
 *Pramod Verma Memorial Award held in Thailand.
-Awarded in Bhutan by 'Moolchand Mishra Memorial Institute'.
-Madhya Pradesh Rashtrabhasha Prachar Samiti and Hindi Bhawan- 'Hindi Sevi Samman of the Trust, Bhopal (2017)'.
-In 2013 Short Story Ratna Award at the 25th All India Short Story Conference in Bihar and other state-level awards.
-Currently: Writing. Special work on tribals and abandoned women.
-Constant travel to forests and abroad.
-Travelled in remote ocean voyages with renowned ornithologist Mr. Salim Ali for special research on birds.

Contact: 07391866481 (M)
Email: vermapramila16@gmail.com

Anjali Bahuguna

Born on 30 January 1962, my academic qualifications are graduation in Science, Masters in Life Science and Doctorate in Plant Ecology. I worked as a Scientist/Engr SG at the Space Applications Centre (Indian Space Research Organization) from March 1986 until June 2009. I took Voluntary Retirement from Government Service in June 2009. My specialisation is ecology and ecosystem studies with emphasis on the Coastal Zone of India, using satellite data and extensive ground-based studies as a tool for studying the coastal ecosystems, viz., coral reefs and mangroves of the Indian coast, their extent, ecological status, monitoring and mapping at ecosystem level. Main achievements include evolving remote sensing based techniques (methodologies) to study tropical coastal ecosystems at Global, National, Regional and Local level, their management functions, impact of natural and man-made disasters, etc.

Currently I am an Expert Member in the subgroup on Mapping, Zoning and Data Security of the functional cluster of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on National Coastal Marine Spatial Planning Framework (CSMP) – promotion of Blue Economy – a NITI Ayog Blue Economy Coordination Committee.

I am also an Expert Member in the Technical Scrutiny Committee to Scrutinize Coastal Zone Management Plans of the Indian Coastal states. The Committee is set up by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, New Delhi and the National Centre for Coastal and Sustainable Management, Chennai.

I was also an Expert Member in the Ministry of Environment and Forests & Climate Change, Govt. of India, Committee for Standardization of Methodology for Demarcation of High Tide Line / Low Tide Line in 2014-2015.

I am also the Editor of the Quarterly Newsletter of the Gujarat Science Academy, Ahmedabad
I have about 90 publications including Research papers in National and International journals, Books, Atlas and Technical notes. I am a Life Member of six scientific Societies and Academy.

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