Beyond Diamond Rings


Beyond Diamond Rings

Author: Kusum Choppra
Format: Paperback
Language: English
ISBN: 9788122310894
Code: 9523C
Pages: 207
Price: Rs. 175.00

Published: 2010
Publisher: CEDAR BOOKS
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Beyond Diamond Rings is a book that spans five generations. Yet it is not a story of generations that encapsulates a family history. Instead the book touches upon the lives of a women-centric Sindhi family of the Bhaibund community. The story revolves around the family's post-partition rehabilitation experiences and presents a panorama of relationships between the women. The book follows them from pre-partition times to ours.

The Bhaibunds were the Merchant Princes of Sindh, who celebrated their success with fabulous homes and flamboyant weddings, Sindhi roots streaked with the colours of the world.

Post-partition's major sociological development was a break with the ancient tradition of Bhaibund men leaving their families at home to live and work abroad, very often fathering a brood there. Genetically programmed almost to live with minimal male interference in their day-to-day functioning, the womenfolk blossomed on their own, taking hold of their lives. Living together with their men made for gender discomforts, in sharp contrast to the flair for living displayed by those lone women whose best was brought out by absent husbands or widowhood.

This book is about the women of those Merchant Princes, how they coped with the trauma and the freedom of this lifestyle, individually and collectively in locales as varied as Pune, Jakarta, Singapore, Dubai, the West Indies and Canary Islands.

About the Author(s)

Kusum Choppra has been writing for over two decades as a Senior Journalist and Gujarat correspondent for Rajasthan Patrika, The Week, Maharashtra Herald, Current, and others. She has had a busy life working in banks and embassies, and running a family gas agency, a handicrafts boutique, and a news agency called News & Views. She has also raised a family of four of her own and several foster children. She is extremely passionate about Numerology, History, Family roots and Environmentalism. Kusum Choppra distills experiences of a lifetime as a woman, daughter, wife, mother and journalist into creative writing.

Some of her short stories have appeared in an anthology called Curtains. She has also published a booklet on Do-it-Yourself Environment Conservation. After a series of short stories and vignettes, Beyond Diamond Rings is her first novel. Her second, a historical novel, is on the anvil. She lives in Ahmedabad, with her family. Kusum blogs at kusumchoppra.blogspot.com

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Contents

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Introduction

Maya

Maya — The Visits

Baba and Bharti

Maya’s Sister

Neelima

No. 7

Laajjo

Baggage Aunty

Neelima’s Daughters

Anjali

Battle for the House

Card Room Confidences

Pinocchio

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Sample Chapters


(Following is an extract of the content from the book)
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BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE

“Will you and Ravi please shift upstairs for some time? Murli finds it difficult to climb the stairs,” Anjali had reasoned with Kavita, Ravi’s wife. They were occupying the guest room downstairs, as it gave their kids easy access to the garden. “Naturally he will, if you do not feed him properly. If you just keep giving him soups and dal, instead of some good solid mutton.” “His digestive system can’t take that just now. The doctor has laid down a strict diet for him.” “Oh yes, we all know that. That’s why you rule the house and the kitchen.” “I rule the kitchen because it is mine. Have I ever ordered the food in your house in Aden?” “This is our house too. It belongs to the family, doesn’t it?” Anjali was red. She deliberately allowed her voice to rise as she declared ominously, “Let it be very clear. This is my house and I take the decisions here. Yes, I rule. And it is order and rule that you and Ravi shift upstairs, so that Murli need not climb stairs.” As she stalked off, Anjali knew that it was not the end of the matter. Sure enough, the discussion resumed at the dinner table. Ravi was in a nasty mood. “Murli, you can’t tackle stairs. Why don’t you and Anjali Bhabhi shift into the old house – it is on the ground floor.” “Isn’t this on the ground too?” queried Murli mildly, “I built it that way for my convenience, you know.” “Your convenience only? Not for the family?” The voice rose sharply. “Meaning?” “Bhabhi has asked us to vacate our room…” Murli raised his eyebrows at Anjali. “I asked Ravi and Kavita to shift upstairs, so you don’t have to climb stairs.” “What’s wrong with that?” Kavita and Devi piped up in unison, “She’s always giving the orders.” “It’s her house. Why not?” This house is ours too!” “Yes, yours too. But primarily it is hers.” Ravi’s short temper flared and he banged his fist on the dining table, shouting, “She is an outsider. How can a family property be hers? If it is, then it is Kavita’s right as well.” “Kavita has all the rights that Anjali has,” maintained Murli equably. “In fact more,” insisted Ravi, “She has produced two sons.” An ashen ghost flitted across Murli’s face. Anjali moved to stand behind him, her hand firm on her shoulder. Murli patted her hand and took a deep breath. “We have several properties. More than one for each one of us. This house is Anjali’s.” A babble broke out and raged on for some time, before pinpointing the question, “WHY?” “Because it was built with the money that her father left for her. It is her home and stands in her name.” “How dare you?” The question hung between the two brothers as the wife and the sister held onto Ravi’s raised fist. Murli was gasping for breath. As she spoke desperately into her mobile, Anjali was pummeling his chest with her fist with her back to her husband’s quarreling siblings. The ambulance took an eternity to arrive – it was too late. After the final rites were performed, Anjali ensured that the whole extended family was present when she made her announcement. She had earlier won over Dadi to her side by diplomatically taking her in confidence, “Don’t you think it will be more peaceful all round if we lived in our own houses and met every week cordially, instead of living together and fighting all the time?” Now she addressed Ravi, “Your father left a lot of property, enough to take care of the entire family. You are now in charge of it.” Ravi looked discomfitted perhaps with the new burden of responsibilty and Devi patently belligerent. Until now, she had handled all the properties, their rentals, fixed deposits, investments etc. “Murli and I built this house for ourselves, from my money. No-one else has any right to it,” she paused significantly and then continued, “You are all welcome as guests. I will make no demands on your properties. I have my own money from my father and Murli’s insurance. If not, I’m sure my brother can afford to feed me.” Dadi spoke up with tight lips, “Naak katwaigi kya hamari? My brother had earned enough to feed seven generations. Why should your brother feed you? Ravi, you and Devi sit with Anjali and decide how much she needs every month for daily expenses. But,” she enquired worriedly, “what are you going to do with this huge house all by yourself?” “We had planned lots of things which didn’t happen as he had so little time and he was surrounded by the family. Now I will plan again.” Her look became steely. Anjali’s renovations took a long while. She had learnt patience. She waited throughout the long year of mourning, staying tactfully in Dadi’s shadow, yet maintaining her personal distance. The long spells of loneliness were broken by her various siblings, her sisters, cousins, brothers, bhabhis and parents who took turns to make extended visits. Anjali did not visit her London maika until after the formal year of mourning and the attendant rituals were finally over. While she spent a well earned vacation touring Europe and America with her sister, the workmen took over the house, implementing the plans she had discussed in full detail. Neelu and Devi, Dadi and Ravi paid visits to the Sanskar Bharti house and queried the contractor, but the poor man only knew what the interior designer had ordered. The guestroom downstairs remained there only but one of the rooms upstairs was converted into a kiddies’ den. For whom? Another bedroom upstairs had the bed and the cupboards taken out, replaced by large round tables and sitting areas, opening onto a generous sit out with… was that a bar? Other guestrooms, one with handrails for elderly use and a room left totally blank except for a beautiful marble central platform and carved niches at intervals on the side and an elaborate music system. What was Anjali planning? The interior designer had a mind of her own and a brief from Anjali, “I am sending her photographs as the work progresses. And she has approved of what has been done. Why do you worry?” The designer demurred. Finally, Anjali returned after six months. This time, the house warming party was a subdued one. “Without Murli, I don’t feel like it,” she demurred to all and sundry. Several doors remained locked. She explained to Dadi, “The guestrooms are for whoever comes. I have planned a special room for their children, so the parents can have privacy when they come here. Why not, with such a big house and so many rooms? And the special room upstairs is for my parents or for you, whenever you come to stay with me.” What about the banished Thakurs, thought Dadi. Where were they? Anjali put her mind at rest. “See my meditation room.” The Thakurs had been relocated in a simple meditation room, with the pride of place given not to Laxmi, but again to Krishna and his Radha, The others lived in the niches around the room. Soft music and bhajans flooded the senses. What about the room with the bar, the tables and the sit out? But before Anjali could embark on her own new life, she had odds and ends to finish off, a dispute that was left simmering decades ago. That of Neelu and Kumar which was patched up by Dadi. Now Neelu was back, frothing at the mouth and demanding freedom. “Neelu, how can you leave him now? You have your kids to see to and you know Kumar has not done well at all; not enough to give you anything like a decent settlement. What will you do?” “What will I do? If my father’s properties can look after you, why not after me and my children?” “That is not the point. Marriage or rather, divorce is not about the settlement alone, is it? What about your lives which you have lived together and now separate? The effect on the children?” “Forget it bhabhi. I don’t care. But I will not let him get off scot free, to do the same things to someone else what he has done to me. I’m going to screw him.” “But how? What sort of a case can you make out in the court, when you have lived with him all these years and he has looked after you and the children as well as he could?” “And how well was that? With his constant battles with bosses and changing jobs? If it weren’t for my brothers, he would be out of jobs and my kids would be starving.” Dadi spoke up, “Go to a good lady lawyer and tell her you have been married for thirteen years and your husband has made you and the children change ten homes because he has changed twelve jobs. See what she has to say,” she declared astutely.


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