Sunita Singh, Longlist, Short Story 2017

Roop Kanwar

Sunita Singh

It was a dark and stormy night. Meenu, a little girl of ten, shuddered as a bolt of lightning thundered and streaked across the dark sky. Ananya, her sister, younger to her by just two years also felt a little scared. Without a word, they went to the adjoining bedroom where they found their grandmother reading out a story to their little brother, Vikram.
“Nanima, please can we come too?” asked Meenu. The old lady in a white saree, who was their grandmother smiled, an indulgent look on her face, “Of course Mrinalini!” she answered.  Grandmother disliked the habit of abbreviating names and always addressed everyone with their proper names. Meenu found it odd, but the kids adored her, she was unlike other grandparents who always criticised or lectured the kids. Their grandmother loved reading detective stories and told them interesting ones too. 

“Didi, were you scared by the sound of thunder?” Vikram, a little boy of six, sniggered, his dark eyes dripping with naughtiness.
“Be quiet!” Ananya answered angrily.

“Nanima, please tell us a story, shut this book, your stories are so much more interesting.” Meenu requested. The grandmother, a handsome woman of about eighty, looked at Vikram questioningly. Vikram wanted to refuse, just to displease his older sisters, but then the hunger for more adventurous ones told by grandmother got the better of him and he too agreed. “Tell us a story of Roop Kanwar, please!” pleaded Ananya. “Yes, Yes!” Meenu also loved stories about Roop Kanwar. Nanima cleared her throat, thought for a while, a far-away look came into her eyes as she started.

“It was a dark, moonless night. The sound of the nearby river, gushing forth broke the silence of the night. But instead of a re-assuring sound, it seemed more eerie. Without the light from the moon and the stars the entire area was shrouded in a veil of darkness. Roop Kanwar looked up from the book that she was reading and gazed at her little girl, a soft look on her face. Kaushalya was about eight months old, a bonny baby with a gentle disposition. Her older child, a boy, lay on another cot, sleeping. Kirtiman was about five years old, and very naughty. A thick mop of hair framed his cherubic face. Roop smiled as she recalled how upset he had been when they moved from Datia, a very small town to the suburbs of Raghopur, a small town in the Lakshmanpur state. Raghopur had good schools and Dushyant Singh was happy that he was being transferred there as the Sub-Divisional Magistrate(Judicial). His ancestral place was near Raghopur and he would now be able to keep an eye on his lands. It was decided that instead of living in the government quarters, they would build their own house in the suburbs of Raghopur, where, they had a piece of land situated across the river.

The place was picturesque and Roop Kanwar fell in love with it as soon as she saw it. Just across the fiercely flowing river lay orchards of guavas and mangoes interspersed with the fragrance of flowering trees and shrubs of jasmine, jungle flame, wild roses and others. After crossing this orchard there was a small hillock – it was decided to build the house at this location. The only problem was that there were hardly any houses in that area. However, since Dushyant had enough staff to look after the security of the place, this problem was easily taken care of. Besides, Roop Kanwar was no ordinary lady. She was the daughter of a zamindar, and her father, rather open-minded for his times, had taught her horse riding and also how to shoot with a gun. In fact, in many feats, she easily outdid her brothers, which greatly pleased her father. Thus, fear was unknown to this Chandela Rajput beauty. She knew how to take care of herself”.

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