Short Story 2018 Longlist, Vikas Sharma

When She Stopped Stealing

There was a poor family in a village in Andhra Pradesh. Hiralal was the head of the family. Nilima was his wife and Raju was their only son. Their relatives did not like them as they were poor. Hiralal got a job as a laborer in a factory in Dubai. He went there for job and left his wife Nilima in village in India.

One day while working in factory Hiralal met an accident and died. Nilima his wife was informed about it. She went there with her son Raju for cremation and came back to India. She did not share death of her husband with anyone in India. She told people that she had gone there to live with her husband for some days. She was alone in the world to look after her son. She did not have any professional diploma or degree to apply for any job.

After two months, she got a chance to work as a maid in a town. Her salary was not good enough to fulfill her needs and to take better care of her son. So she had to live a life full of struggle.

To fulfill her needs she started stealing things from her owner’s house. Many times she was caught red handed but the owner was a kind person, so he forgave her on her apology. She showed stolen things to her son and neighbours with a pretext that these were sent by her husband from Dubai. She had to leave her job twice because of her stealing habit.

On the other hand, her son Raju was growing up and going in an English medium school. Whenever Raju asked about his father from Nilima, she evaded saying that his father was in Dubai and did not love them. With the passage of time Raju stopped asking about his father. After completing his school, Raju got admission in college and made it to the final year.

Once Nilima went to the market to buy vegetables. On the way, she realised that she forgot her purse at home and came back to take it. When she entered in the room, she saw that Raju was about to apply her new lipstick sitting in front of the mirror. She was startled to see him like this. She shouted, q”Raju,What are you doing with my lipstick? It is very expensive and new. It is sent by your father from Dubai. I have not used it so far. Couldn’t you have waited?”

Raju was flummoxed to see his mother. But smartly he handled the situation. He smiled and handed over the lipstick to his mother. He said to his mother, “I forgot to tell you that I am playing Draupadi in our college programme and rehearsals will start this evening.”

Actually Nilima stole this expensive lipstick from her owner’s house. She used to sell expensive things stolen by her to the neighbours saying that these were sent by her husband from Dubai.

There was a Draupadi Mata Temple near their village. Nilima and her husband had a great faith in that temple. She also took Raju in the temple every month. It was said that whomsoever had faith in the temple, could have their wishes fulfilled.

Twenty five years back when Nilima was not having any son, one of her husband’s friend told them about this temple. They started going there with a wish to have a son. They went there daily for one year. After one year their wish was fulfilled and Nilima gave birth to a son. Since then she had a great faith in Draupadi Mata Temple.

When Raju told Nilima that he was playing as Draupadi in college, she instantly cooled down and relaxed. She sat on a chair and told him various interesting stories about Draupadi Mata Temple which she read from books and came to know from the people around.

She told Raju that when he was ten year old, he was caught by Chickenpox, taken to that temple and only by the blessings of Draupadi Mata he could recover.

She also told Raju that when his father went to Dubai, she was left alone to take care of him and Draupadi Mata protected her from all sufferings. Only her faith in Draupadi Mata gave her strength to live.

Raju was listening to all these things very patiently. Then he suddenly burst and added to his mother’s statement, “When you were caught by police for theft committed in your owner’s house, Draupadi Mata must have helped you to come out of that.”

After Raju said these words, Nilima was surprised how he came to know that she was caught by police. She burst into tears and started crying loudly. Raju felt bad when his mother was crying. He offered her a glass of water. She drank water and became calm. There was a deep silence in the room for a few minutes.

Then Raju said to his mother, “I knew about it. Once you were not at home and I was searching for my book. I got your diary. I opened it and saw our family photo. Sorry maa, I read it also.”

He became emotional and kept quiet for some time. After that he said to Nilima, “I was crying and angry at the same time because you didn’t tell me anything. You told me that father is in Dubai and didn’t love us. I felt very bad when fathers of my friends used to come in parent teacher meeting and also took them for outing. You were busy with your job. I could not say anything to you. A sense of injustice swept over me.”

Nilima said, “My dear son, Raju, it is not the truth. Your father died when you were only three year old and I was left alone in the world to parent you. I didn’t tell you about the death of your father as you were too young to understand this and moreover I didn’t want to make you weak. There were only three members in our family and two after your father’s death, you and me. I kept secret of death of your father because I feared that if people come to know about it, they could make our life more miserable. I prepared myself to fight with this situation. That is why, I concocted this fiction that your father is in Dubai and was sending expensive things for us. I didn’t want to share with anyone that I was suffering from any problem. I went out of the village to earn so that no one can raise questions to us. Trust me, it was for you, my son.”

Raju said to Nilima, “Then you started stealing things from your owner’s house.”

Nilima said, “Whatever I did was for you only, my dear son.”

Suddenly the boy fell unconscious. Nilima rushed to him. She was crying for help but there was no one to help her. She immediately went to the kitchen, brought water in a glass and showered some water on the face of Raju. After sometime Raju came out of stupor. Nilima helped Raju to reach the bed. She felt sorry to Raju.

Then Raju asked Nilima to forget about what had happened in the past. He requested her not to steal anything in future.

He said to Nilima, “I have got a part time evening job as an actor. Mr. Manoj, our drama teacher in college was giving me training on acting. I have already shared all about our family with him. He is a very kind person and always helps me. He wanted to talk to you but I stopped him because it could hurt you and I did not want you in trouble.”

Then Nilima said, “My dear son, tell me one thing, who wants to become a thief? It was very tough for a widow with three year old son to survive in this world of cruel people. But my faith in Draupadi Mata Temple is hundred percent genuine, not pretentious. I have a deep faith in Draupadi Mata as she helped me in every moment of life when I was in trouble. But this is also a fact that I have done many wrong things in bringing you up. I left the path of honesty. Today, I am feeling very shameful for all my wrong acts done in the past.”

Raju said to Nilima, “Maa, I was caught in the habit of smoking and drinking in the college. Because of this habit I developed white spots on my lips. I started using your lipstick to hide those white spots so that people could not notice. Once I was using your lipstick in the college. Our drama teacher, Mr. Manoj caught me. I explained everything to him. He didn’t tell about this to anyone in the college and took me to the doctor. Now I have got rid of my habit of smoking and drinking. When Mr. Manoj, our drama teacher, came to know about my interest in acting, he helped me to improve my acting skills.

Next week there will be a charity show in the college to collect money which will be used in spreading awareness in people about the ill effects of using alcoholic drinks and tobbaco on health. I wanted to play Arjun in this show but Mr. Manoj said that this time boys will play for the female characters and girls for the male characters. I also have a deep faith in Draupadi Mata. So I thought to contribute in charity show playing Draupadi.”

Raju said to his mother, “I will complete my college this year and Mr. Manoj has promised to help me get job. Now there will be no need for you to work in the houses. My getting habitual of drinking and smoking was a return to you for your wrong acts done in past. I met Mr. Manoj, our drama teacher, who helped me out of all evils and showed the right direction in life. It was all because of your faith in Draupadi Mata.”

Nilima said, “I will not dwell on any wrong acts in future. Now I have no fear of this world. My dear Raju, you made me realise that I was very wrong. I am proud of you my son. This is also because of the blessings of Draupadi Mata. Draupadi Mata stopped me from doing wrong acts through my son. Today we will both go to Draupadi Mata Temple and I will apologise for my sins. I will also pray for your good health and better future.”

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