Haṭak

Saadat Hasan Manto

Din bhar ki thakee maandee wo abhi abhi apne bistar par leṭi thi aur leṭte hi so gai. Municipal comittee ka daaroghaa safai, jise wo Seṭh ji ke naam se pukaaraa karti thi, abhi abhi uskee haddiyaan-pasliyaan jhiṉjhoṛ kar sharaab ke nashe meiṉ chur, ghar waapas gayaa thaa… wo raat ko yahiṉ par thehr jaataa magar use apni dharmpatni ka bahut khayaal tha jo usse behad prem kartee thi.

Wo rupaye jo us ne apni jismaani mashaqqat ke badle us daaroġaa se wasul kiye the, us  kee chust aur thuk bharee cholee ke niche se upar ko ubhare hue the. Kabhi kabhi saaṉs ke utaar chaṛhao se chaaṉdee ke ye sikke khanakhanaane lagte aur, us ki khanakhanaahat us ke dil ki ghair ahuṉg dhaṛakanoṉ meiṉ ghul mil jaatee. Aisaa maalum hotaa ke un sikkoṉ ki chaaṉdee pighal kar us ke dil ke k͟hun meiṉ ṭapak rahi hai!

Us ka seenaa aṉdar se tap rahaa thaa. Ye garmee kuch to us brandy ke baais thi jis ka addhaa daroġaa apne saath laayaa thaa aur kuch us “byauṛaa” ka nateejaa thi jis ka soda khatm hone par donoṉ ne paani milaa kar piyaa tha.

Wo saagawaan ke lambe aur chauṛe palang par auṉdhe munh leṭi thi. Us kee baaheṉ jo kandhoṉ tak nangi theeṉ, patang ki us kaanp ki tarah phailee hui theeṉ jo os meiṉ bhig jaane ke baais patle kaaghaz se judaa ho jaaye. Daaeṉ baazu ki baghal meiṉ shikan alud gosht ubhraa hua thaa jo baar baar moṛne ke baais neelee rangat ik͟htiyaar kar gayaa thaa, jaise nuchee hui murġee ki khaal ka ek tukṛaa wahaaṉ par rakh diyaa gayaa hai.

Kamraa bahut chotaa thaa jis meiṉ beshumaar cheezeṉ betarteebee ke saath bikhree hui theeṉ. Teen chaar sukhe saṛe chappal palang ke niche paṛe the jin ke upar muṉh rakh kar ek k͟haarish zadaa kuttaa so rahaa thaa aur niṉd meiṉ kisee ghaairamarai cheez ko munh chidaa rahaa thaa. Us kutte ke baal jagah jagah se k͟haarish ke baais uṛe hue the. Dur se agar koi us kutte ko dekhta to samajhtaa ki pair poṉchne waalaa puraanaa ṭaaṭ dohraa kar ke zameen par rakhkhaa hai.

Us taraf chote se deewaaragir par siṉgaar ka saamaan rakhaa thaa. Gaaloṉ par lagaane ki surk͟hee, hoṉtoṉ ki surkh battee, powder, kunghee aur lohe ke pin jo wo ghaaliban apne juṛe meiṉ lagaayaa karti thi. Paas hi ek lumbee khuṉṭi ke saath sabz tote ka piṉjaraa laṭak rahaa thaa jo gardan ko apni piṭh ke baaloṉ meiṉ chupaahe so rahaa tha. Piṉjraa kache amrud ke tukṛoṉ aur gale hue sangtare ke chilkoṉ se bharaa paṛaa thaa. Un badbudaar tukṛoṉ par chote chote kaale rung ke machar ya patang uṛ rahe the.

Palang ke paas hi bed ki ek kursee paṛee thi jis ki pusht sar tekane ke baais behad mailee ho rahi thi. Us kursee ke daaeṉ haath ko ek k͟hubsurat tipaai thi jis par “His Masters Wise” ka portable gramophone paṛa thaa, us gramophone par mumdhe hue kaale kapṛe ki bahut buree haalat thi. Zang alud suiyaan tipaai ke ilaawaa kamre ke har kone meiṉ bikhree hui theeṉ. Us tipaai ke ain upar deewaar par chaar frame latak rahe the jin meiṉ muk͟htalif admiyoṉ ki tasweereṉ juṛee theeṉ.

Un tasweeroṉ se zaraa haṭ kar, yaani darawaaze meiṉ daak͟hil hote hi baaeṉ taraf ki deewaar ke kone meiṉ Ganesh ji ki shok͟h rung ki tasweer jo taazaa aur sukhe hue phuloṉ se ladee hui thi. Shaayad ye tasweer kapṛe ke kisee thaan se utaar kar frame meiṉ jaṛaai gai thi. Us tasweer ke saath chote se deewaaragir par, jo ki behad chiknaa ho rahaa thaa, tel ki ek pyaalee dharee thi jo diye ko raushan karne ke liye rakhee gai thi. Paas hi diyaa paṛaa thaa jis ki lau hawaa buṉd hone ke baais maathe ke maanaṉd seedhee khaṛi thi. Us deewaaragir par rui ki choti baṛee maroṛiyaan bhi paṛee theeṉ.

Jab wo bohni karti thi to dur se Ganesh ji ki us murtee se rupaye chuwaa kar aur phir apne maathe ke saath lagaa kar unheṉ apni cholee meiṉ rakh liyaa karti thi. Us ki chaatiyaaṉ chunke kaafi ubharee hui theeṉ is liye wo jitne rupaye bhi apni cholee meiṉ rakhtee, mahafuz paṛe rahte the. Albattaa kabhi kabhi jab Maadho Pune se chutti lekar ataa to use apne kuch rupaye palang ke paae ke niche us chote se gaṛe meiṉ chupaanaa paṛte the jo us ne k͟haas is kaam ki gharaz se khodaa thaa.

Maadho se rupaye mahafuz rakhane ka ye tareeqa Sauguṅdhee ko Raam Laal Dalaal ne bataayaa thaa. us ne jab ye sunaa ke Maadho Pune se aa kar Sauguṅdhee par dhaawe bolataa hai to kahaa thaa… “us saale ko tune kab se yaar banaayaa hai? ye baṛee anokhee ashiqai-maashuqai hai.”

“Ek paisaa apni jeb se nikaalta nahiṉ aur tere saath maze uṛaataa rahataa hai, maze alag rahe, tujhse kuch le bhi marataa hai… sauguṅdhee! Mujhe kuch daal meiṉ kaalaa nazar ataa hai. Us saale meiṉ kuch baat zarur hai jo tujhe bhaa gayaa hai… saat saal… se ye dhundaa kar rahaa hun. Tum chokariyoṉ ki saaree kamzoriyaaṉ jaantaa huṉ.”

Ye keh kar Raam Laal Dalaal ne jo Bombay shahar ke muk͟htlif hissoṉ se das rupaye se le kar sau rupaye tak waalee ek sau bees chokariyoṉ ka dhandaa kartaa thaa. Sauguṅdhee ko bataayaa, “saalee apnaa dhan yuṉ na barbaad kar… tere aṉg par se ye kapaṛaa bhi utaar kar le jaaegaa. Wo teree maan ka yaar… is palang ke paae ke niche chotaa saa gaṛa khod kar usameṉ saare paise dabaa diyaa kar aur jab wo yaar ayaa kare to usse kahaa kar… teree jaan ki qasam Maadho, aj subah se ek dhele ka munh nahiṉ dekhaa. Baahar waale se kah kar ek kap chaay aur aflaatun biskut to mumgaa. Bhuk se mere pet meiṉ chuhe dauṛ rahe haiṉ… samjhiṉ! Bahut naazuk waqt aa gayaa hai meree jaan… is saalee Caaṉgres ne sharaab bund karake baazaar bilkul mundaa kar diyaa hai. Par tujhe to kahiṉ na kahiṉ se peene ko mil hi jaatee hai, bhagawaan ki qasam, jab tere yahaaṉ kabhi raat ki k͟haalee ki hui botal dekhtaa hun, aur daaru ki baas sunghtaa hun to ji chaahataa hai teree jun meiṉ chalaa jaauṉ.”

Sauguṅdhee ko apne jism meiṉ sabse ziyadaa apnaa seenaa pasand thaa. Ek baar Jamunaa ne usse kahaa thaa, “niche se in bumb ke goloṉ ko baaṉdh ke rakhaa kar, aṉgiyaa pahanegi to inkee sakhtaai thik rahegi.”

Sauguṅdhee ye sun kar huṉs di, “Jamunaa tu sabko apni tarah samajhtee hai. Das rupaye meiṉ log teree botiyaaṉ toṛ kar chale jaate haiṉ. Tu to samajhtee hai ki sab ke saath bhi aisaa hi hotaa hogaa… koi muwaa lagaaye to aisee-waisee jagah haath… arre haan, kal ki baat tujhe sunaauṉ, Raam Laal raat ke do baje ek Punjabi ko laayaa. Raat ka tees rupaye tay hua… jab sone lage to maiṉne battee bujhaa dee… are wo to darne lagaa… suntee ho Jamunaa? Teree qasam aṉdheraa hote hi uska saaraa thaath kirakiraa ho gayaa!… wo dar gayaa! Maiṉne kahaa, chalo chalo, der kyuṉ karte ho. Teen bajane waale haiṉ, ab din chaṛ ayegaa, bolaa, raushni karo, raushni karo… maiṉne kahaa, ye raushni kyaa hua… bolaa, laait… laait… uskee bhiṉchee hui awaaz sunakar mujhse humsee na rukee.

“Bhai maiṉ to laait na karuṉgi!” aur ye keh kar maiṉne us kee gosht bharee raan ki chutakee lee… taṛap kar uṭh baithaa aur laait on karadee, maiṉne jhat se chaadar oṛ lee, aur kahaa, tujhe sharm nahiṉ atee mardwe! Wo palang par ayaa to maiṉ uthi aur lapak kar laait bujhaa dee! wo phir ghabaraane lagaa… tere qasam baṛe maze meiṉ raat kati, kabhi aṉdheraa kabhi ujaalaa, kabhi ujaalaa, kabhi aṉdheraa… traam ki khaṛakhaṛ hui to pataluna-watalun pahan kar wo uṭh bhaagaa… saale ne tees rupaye satte meiṉ jeete hoṉge, jo yuṉ muft de gayaa… jamunaa tu bilkul alhaṛ hai. Baṛe baṛe guṛ yaad haiṉ mujhe, in logoṉ ko thik karne ke liye!”

Sauguṅdhee ko waaqi bahut se guṛ yaad the jo us ne apni ek do saheliyoṉ ko bataae bhi the. Aam taur par wo ye guṛ sabko bataayaa karti thi, “agar aadmee shareef ho, ziyadaa baateṉ na karne waalaa ho to usse k͟haub sharaarateṉ karo, unginat baateṉ karo. Use cheṛo, sataao, us ke gudagudee karo. Usse khelo… agar daaṛi rakhataa ho to us meiṉ uṉgaliyoṉ se kunnghee karte karate do chaar baal bhi noch lo, pet baṛaa ho to thapathapaao… usko itni mohalat hi na do ki apni marzee ke mutaabiq kuch karne paae… wo k͟hush k͟hush chalaa jaaegaa aur raqm bhi bachee rahegi… aise mard jo gup chup rahate haiṉ baṛe khataranaak hote haiṉ bahan… haddee-pasalee toṛ dete haiṉ agar un kaa daaw chal jaaye.”

Sauguṅdhee itni chaalaak nahiṉ thi jitni k͟hud ko zaahir karti thi. Us ke gaahak bahut kam the ghaayat darjaa jazbaatee laṛakee thi. Yahi wajah hai ki wo tamaam guṛ jo use yaad the us ke dimaagh se phisal kar us ke pet meiṉ aa jaate the jis par ek bachchaa paidaa karne ke baais kai lakeereṉ paṛ gai theeṉ … un lakeeroṉ ko pehlee martabaa dekh kar use aisaa lagaa thaa ki us ke k͟haarishzadaa kutte ne apne panje se ye nishaan banaa diye haiṉ.

Sauguṅdhee dimaagh meiṉ ziyadaa rahtee thi lekin juṉhi koi narma-naazuk baat, koi komal bolee, use kahataa to jhat pighal kar wo apne jism ke dusre hissoṉ meiṉ phail jaatee. Go mard aur aurat ke jismaani milaap ko uska dimaagh bilkul fazul samajhataa thaa. Magar us ke jism ke baaqai azaa sab ke sab us ke bahut buree tarah qaail the! Wo thakan chaahate the…

Aisee thakan jo unheṉ jhiṉjhoṛ kar… use maarakar sulaane par majbur karde! Aisee niṉd jo thak kar chur chur ho jaane ke baad ae, kitni mazedaar hotee hai… wo behoshi jo maar khaa kar bund bund dheele ho jaane par taaree hotee hai, kitnaa anund detee hai! Kabhi aisaa hotaa hai ke tum ho, aur kabhi aisaa maalum hotaa hai ke tum nahiṉ. Aur is hone aur na hone ke beech meiṉ kabhi kabhi aisaa bhi mahsus hotaa hai ke tum hawaa meiṉ bahut uṉchee jagah laṭkee hui ho. Upar hawaa, niche hawaa, daaeṉ hawaa, baaeṉ hawaa, bas hawaa hi hawaa! Aur phir is hawaa meiṉ dam ghutnaa bhi ek k͟haas mazaa detaa hai.

Bachpan meiṉ jab wo aṉkhamichaulee khelaa karti thi, aur apni maan ka baṛaa sanduq khol kar us meiṉ chup jaayaa karti thi, to naakaafi hawaa meiṉ dam ghutne ke saath saath pakṛe jaane ke k͟haauf se wo tez dhaṛakan jo us ke dil meiṉ paidaa ho jaayaa karti thi kitnaa mazaa diyaa karti thi.

Sauguṅdhee chahtee thi ke apni saaree ziṉdagi kisee aise hi sanduq meiṉ chup kar guzaar de jiske baahar ṛauṛane waale phirte raheṉ. Kabhi kabhi us ko dhuṉdh nikaaleṉ taaki wo kabhi un ko ṛauṛane ki koshish kare! Ye ziṉdagi jo wo paanch baras se guzaar rahi thi, aṉkh michaulee hi to thi! Kabhi wo kisee ko dhuṉdh letee thi aur kabhi koi use dhuṉdh letaa thaa…

Bas yuṉhi uska jeewan beet rahaa thaa. Wo k͟hush thi is liye ke usko k͟hush rehnaa paṛtaa thaa. Har roz raat ko koi na koi mard us ke chauṛe saagawaani palang par hotaa thaa aur Sauguṅdhee, jis ko mardoṉ ke theek karne ke liye beshumaar guṛ yaad the. Is baat ka baar baar tahayyaa karne par bhi ki wo un mardoṉ ki koi aisee waisee baat nahiṉ maanegi aur un ke saath baṛe rukhepan ke saath pesh aegi, hamesha apne jazabaat ke dhaare meiṉ bah jaayaa karti thi aur faqat ek pyaasee aurat rah jaayaa karti thi.

Har roz raat ko us ka puraanaa ya nayaa mulaaqaatee usse kahaa kartaa thaa, “Sauguṅdhee maiṉ tujhse prem kartaa hun.” Aur Sauguṅdhee ye jaan buch kar bhi ki wo jhuṭ boltaa hai bas mom ho jaatee thi aur aisaa mahasus karti thi jaise sachmuch use prem kiyaa jaa rahaa hai… prem… kitnaa suṉdar bol hai!

Wo chaahtee thi, usko pighlaa kar apne saare aṉgoṉ par mal le us kee maalish kare taaki ye saare ka saaraa us ke musaamoṉ meiṉ rach jaaye… ya phir wo k͟hud us ke andar chalee jaaye. Simaṭ simaṭaa kar us ke aṉdar daak͟hil ho jaaye aur upar se dhaknaa band karde. Kabhi kabhi jab prem kiye jaane ka jazbaa us ke aṉdar bahut shiddat ik͟htiyaar kar letaa to kai baar us ke ji meiṉ ataa ke apne paas paṛe hue aadmee ko god hi meiṉ lekar thapathapaanaa shuru karde aur loriyaaṉ de kar us godi hi meiṉ sulaa de.

Prem kar sakne ki ahaliyat us ke aṉdar is qadar ziyadaa thi ki har us mard se jo us ke paas ataa thaa, wo mohabbat kar saktee thi aur phir usko nibaah bhi sakatee thi. Ab tak chaar mardoṉ se apnaa prem nibaah hi to rahi thi jin kee tasweereṉ us ke saamne deewaar par laṭak rahi theeṉ.

Har waqt ye ehasaas us ke dil meiṉ maujud rahataa thaa ki wo bahut achee hai lekin ye achaapan mardoṉ meiṉ kyuṉ nahiṉ hotaa. Ye baat uskee samajh meiṉ nahiṉ atee thi… ek baar ainaa dekhate hue be ik͟htiyaar us ke munh se nikal gayaa thaa… “Sauguṅdhee, tujhse zamaane ne achchaa suluk nahiṉ kiyaa!”

Ye zamaanaa, yaani paanch barsoṉ ke din aur un kee raateṉ, us ke jeewan ke har taar ke saath waabastaa the. Go us zamaane se us ko k͟hushnaseeb nahiṉ hui thi jis ki khwahish us ke dil meiṉ maujud thi. Taaham wo chaahatee thi ki yuṉhi us ke din beette chale jaaeṉ, use kaun se mahal khaṛe karanaa the jo rupaye-paise ka laalach karti. Das rupaye us ka am narkha thaa jis meiṉ se dhaai rupaye Raam Laal apni dalaalee ke kaaṭ letaa thaa. Saaṛe saat rupaye use roz mil hi jaayaa karte the jo us kee akelee jaan ke liye kaafee the aur Maadho jab Pune se baqaul Raam Laal dalaal, Sauguṅdhee par dhaawe bolane ke liye ataa thaa to wo das pandrah rupaye khiraaj bhi adaa karti thi!

Ye khiraaj sirf is baat ka thaa ki Sauguṅdhee ko usse kuch wo ho gayaa thaa. Raam Laal dalaal ṭhik kahtaa thaa, us meiṉ aisee baat zarur thi jo Sauguṅdhee ko bahut bhaa gai thi. Ab us ko chupaanaa kyaa! Bataa hi kyuṉ nahiṉ deṉ!

Sauguṅdhee se jab Maadho ki pehlee mulaaqaat hui to us ne kahaa thaa, “Tujhe laaj nahiṉ atee apnaa bhaaw karte! Jaantee hai tu mere saath kis cheez ka saudaa kar rahi hai… aur maiṉ tere paas kyuṉ ayaa hun?… chhee chee chee… das rupaye aur jaisaa ki tu kahtee hai dhaai rupaye dalaal ke, baaqi rahe saaṛae saat, rahe na saaṛe saat?… ab in saaṛe saat rupyoṉ par tu mujhe aisee cheez dene ka wachan detee hai jo tu de hi nahiṉ saktee aur maiṉ aisee cheez lene ayaa, jo maiṉ le hi nahiṉ saktaa… mujhe aurat chaahiye par tujhe kyaa is waqt isee ghaṛee mard chaahiye? Mujhe to koi aurat bhi bhaa jaaegi par kyaa maiṉ tujhe jachataa hun!… Teraa meraa naaṭaa hi kyaa hai, kuch bhi nahiṉ… bas ye das rupaye, jin meiṉ se dhaai rupaye dalaalee meiṉ chale jaaeṉge aur baaqi idhar udhar bikhar jaaeṉge, tere aur mere beech meiṉ baj rahe haiṉ… tu bhi in ka bajnaa sun rahi hai aur maiṉ bhi. Teraa man kuch aur sochtaa hai meraa man kuch aur… kyuṉ na koi aisee baat kareṉ ke tujhe meree zarurat ho aur mujhe teree… Pune meiṉ hawaladaar hun, mahine meiṉ ek baar ayaa karuṉgaa. Teen-chaar din ke liye… ye dhundaa choda, maiṉ tujhe k͟harch ke liye diyaa karuṉgaa … kyaa bhaaṛaa hai is kholee ka?” 

Maadho ne aur bhi bahut kuch kahaa thaa jis kaa asar Sauguṅdhee par is qadar ziyadaa hua thaa ki wo chand lamhaat ke liye k͟hud ko hawaaladaarani samajhne lagi thi. Baateṉ karne ke baad Maadho ne us ke kamre ki bikhree hui cheezeṉ kareene se rakhee theeṉ aur nangi tasweereiṉ jo Sauguṅdhee ne apne sirahaane laṭakaa rakhee theeṉ, binaa puche-gache phaaṛ dee theeṉ aur kahaa thaa… “Sauguṅdhee, bhai maiṉ aisee tasweereiṉ yahaaṉ nahiṉ rakhane duṉgaa…aur paani ka ye ghaṛaa… dekhnaa kitnaa mailaa hai aur ye… ye cheethaṛe, ye chiṉdiyaan… uf, kitni buree baaus atee hai, uṭhaa ke baahar pheṉk in ko… aur tu ne apne baaloṉ ka satyaanaas kar rakhaa hai… aur… aur…”

Teen gheṅṭe ki baat cheet ke baad Sauguṅdhee aur Maadho apas meiṉ ghul mil gae the aur Sauguṅdhee ko to aisaa mahsus hua thaa ke barsoṉ se hawaaladaar ko jaantee hai, us waqt tak kisee ne bhi kamre meiṉ badbudaar cheethaṛoṉ, maile ghaṛe aur nangi tasweeroṉ ki maujudgi ka k͟hayaal nahiṉ kiyaa thaa aur na kabhi kisee ne usko ye mahsus karne ka mauqaa diyaa thaa ke uska ek ghar hai, jis meiṉ gharelupan aa sakataa hai. 

Log ate the aur bistar tak ġhalaazat ko mahsus kiye baġair chale jaate the. Koi Sauguṅdhee se ye nahiṉ kehtaa thaa, “dekh to aaj teree naak kitni laal ho rahi hai, kahiṉ zukaam na ho jaaye tujhe… ṭhahar maiṉ tere waaste dawaa laataa hun.” Maadho kitnaa achchaa thaa, us kee har baat baawan tolaa aur paawa-rattee ki thi. Kyaa khaṛee khaṛee sunaai theeṉ us ne Sauguṅdhee ko… use mahasus hone lagaa ki use Maadho ki zarurat hai. Chunaaṉche un donoṉ ka sumbundh ho gayaa.

Mahine meiṉ ek baar Maadho Pune se aata thaa aur waapas jaate hue hameshaa Sauguṅdhee se kahaa kartaa thaa, “dekh Sauguṅdhee! agar tu ne phir se apnaa dhandaa shuru kiyaa to bas teree meree ṭuṭ jaaegi… agar tu ne ek baar bhi kisee mard ko apne yahaaṉ ṭhahraayaa to chuṭiyaa se pakaṛ kar baahar nikaal duṉgaa… dekh is mahine ka k͟harch maiṉ tujhe punaa pahuṉchte hi money order kar duṉgaa… haan kyaa bhaaṛaa hai is kholee ka…”

Na Maadho ne kabhi Pune se k͟harch bhejaa thaa aur na Sauguṅdhee ne apnaa dhandaa band kiyaa thaa. Donoṉ achchee tarah jaante the ke kyaa ho rahaa hai. Na Sauguṅdhee ne kabhi Maadho se ye kahaa thaa ki “tu ye kyaa taratar kiyaa kartaa hai, ek phuṭi kauṛee bhi dee hai kabhi tu ne?” Aur na Maadho ne kabhi Sauguṅdhee se puchaa thaa, “ye maal tere paas kahaaṉ se ataa hai jab ke maiṉ tujhe kuch detaa hi nahiṉ…”

Donoṉ jhuṭe the. Donoṉ ek mulammaa ki hui ziṉdagi basar kar rahe the… lekin Sauguṅdhee k͟hush thi jis ko asal sonaa na mile wo mulammaa kiye hue gahnoṉ hi par raazee ho jaayaa kartaa hai.

Is waqt Sauguṅdhee thakee maandee so rahi thi. Bijlee ka qumqumaa jise off karnaa wo bhul gai thi us ke sar ke upar laṭak rahaa thaa. Uskee tez raushni us kee muṉdee hui ankhoṉ ke saamne ṭakraa rahi thi. Magar wo gehree niṉd so rahi thi.

Darawaaze par dastak hui… raat ke do baje ye kaun ayaa thaa? Sauguṅdhee ke k͟hwaab alud kaanoṉ meiṉ dastak bhunbhunaahaṭ ban kar pahuṉchee. Darawaazaa jab zor se khaṭkhaṭaayaa gayaa to chauṉk kar uṭh baiṭhi… do mile-jule sharaaboṉ aur daantoṉ ke rekhoṉ meiṉ phumse hue machlee ke rezaoṉ ne us ke munh ke aṉdar aisaa luaab paidaa kar diyaa thaa jo behad kasailaa aur laisdaar thaa. Dhotee ke pallu se us ne ye badbudaar luaab saaf kiyaa aur ankheṉ malne lagi.

Palang par wo akelee thi. Jhuk kar us ne palang ke niche dekhaa to us ka kuttaa sukhe hue chapploṉ par munh rakhe so rahaa thaa, aur niṉd meiṉ kisee ghaairmarai cheez ko munh chiṛaa rahaa thaa aur totaa peeth ke baaloṉ meiṉ sar diye so rahaa thaa.

Darawaaze par dastak hui. Sauguṅdhee bistar par se uṭhi. Sar dard ke maare phaṭaa jaa rahaa thaa. Ghaṛe se paani ka ek ḍoṉgaa nikaal kar is ne kullee ki aur dusraa ḍoṉgaa ġaṭaa ġaṭ pee kar is ne darawaaze ka pat thoṛaa saa kholaa aur kahaa, “Raam Laal?”

Raam Laal jo baahar dastak dete hue thak gayaa thaa. Bhannaa kar kehne lagaa, “tujhe saanp suṉgh gayaa thaa ya kyaa ho gayaa thaa? Ek klaak (gheṅte) se baahar khaṛaa darawaazaa khaṭkhaṭaa rahaa hun, kahaan mar gai thi?” Phir awaaz dabaa kar us ne haule se kahaa, “aṉdar koi hai to nahiṉ?”

Jab Sauguṅdhee ne kahaa, “nahiṉ…” to Raam Laal ki awaaz phir uṉchee ho gai, “to darawaazaa kyuṉ nahiṉ kholtee?… bhai had ho gai hai, kyaa niṉd paai hai. Yuṉ ek ek chokree utaarane meiṉ do do ghuṅte sar khapaanaa paṛe to maiṉ apnaa dhundaa kar chukaa… ab tu meraa munh kyaa dekhtee hai. Jhaṭapaṭ ye dhotee utaar kar wah phuloṉ waalee saaṛee pahan, powder-wowder lagaa aur chal mere saath… baahar motor meiṉ ek Seṭh baithe teraa iṉtizaar kar rahe haiṉ… chal chal ek dam jaldee kar.”

Sauguṅdhee araam kursee par baith gai aur Raam Laal aine ke saamne apne baaloṉ meiṉ kunnghee karne lagaa.

Sauguṅdhee ne tipaai ki taraf apnaa haath baṛhayaa aur baam ki shishi uthaa kar us ka dhakanaa kholte hue kahaa, “Raam Laal aaj meraa ji achchaa nahiṉ.”

Raam Laal ne kunghee deewaaragir par rakh dee aur muṛ kar kahaa, “to pahle hi kah diyaa hotaa.” Sauguṅdhee ne maathe aur kanpaṭiyoṉ par baam se chute hue ghalat fehmee dur kardee.

“Wo baat nahiṉ, Raam Laal! Aise hi, meraa ji achchaa nahiṉ… bahut pee gai.”

Raam Laal ke munh meiṉ paani bhar ayaa, “thoṛee bachee ho to laa… zaraa ham bhi munh ka mazaa ṭhik karleṉ.”

Sauguṅdhee ne baam ki shishi tipaai par rakh dee aur kahaa, “bachaai hotee to ye muwaa sar meiṉ dard hi kyuṉ hotaa… dekh Raam Laal! Wo jo baahar motor meiṉ baiṭhaa hai use aṉdar hi le ao.”

Raam Laal ne jawaab diya, “nahiṉ bhai, wo aṉdar nahiṉ aa sakte. Gentleman adamee haiṉ. Wo to motor ko galee ke baahar khaṛi karte hue ghabaraate the… tu kapṛe-wapṛe pahan le aur zaraa galee ke nukkaṛ tak chal… sab ṭhik ho jaaegaa.”

Saaṛae saat rupaye ka saudaa thaa. Sauguṅdhee is haalat meiṉ jabki us ke sar meiṉ shiddat se dard ho rahaa thaa, kabhi qabul na karti magar use rupyoṉ ki sak͟ht zarurat thi. Us kee saath waalee kholee meiṉ ek madraasee aurat rahtee thi jis kaa k͟haawaṉd motor ke niche aa kar mar gayaa thaa. Us aurat ko apni jawaan laṛkee samet watan jaanaa thaa. Lekin us ke paas chunki karaayaa hi nahiṉ thaa is liye wo kasamapursee ki haalat meiṉ paṛee thi. Sauguṅdhee ne kal hi usko dhaaras dee thi aur use kahaa tha, “behen tu chiṉtaa na kar. Meraa mard Pune se ane hi waalaa hai, maiṉ usse kuch rupaye le kar tere jaane ka bandobast kar duṉgi.” 

Maadho Pune se ane waalaa thaa. Magar rupyoṉ ka bandobast to Sauguṅdhee hi ko kar na thaa. Chunaaṉche wo uṭhi aur jaldee jaldee kapṛe tabdeel karne lagi. Paanch minṭoṉ meiṉ us ne dhotee utaar kar phuloṉ waalee saaṛee pehni aur gaaloṉ par surkha powder lagaa kar taiyaar ho gai. Ghaṛe ke ṭhunnde paani ka ek aur ḍoṉgaa piyaa aur Raam Laal ke saath ho lee. 

Galee jo ke choṭe shehroṉ ke baazaar se bhi kuch baṛee thi. Bilkul k͟haamosh thi, gas ke wo lamp jo khuṅboṉ par jaṛe the pehle ki nisbat bahut dhundlee raushni de rahe the. Zang ke baais un ke shishoṉ ko gadlaa kar diyaa gayaa thaa. Is aṉdhee raushni meiṉ galee ke ak͟hairee sire par ek motor nazar aa rahi thi.

Kamzor raushni meiṉ use siyah rang ki motor ka saayaa sa nazar ayaa aur raat ke pichle pahr ki bhedoṉ bharee k͟haamoshi… Sauguṅdhee ko aisaa lagaa ke us ke sar ka dard fizaa par bhi chaa gayaa hai. Ek kasailaapan use hawaa ke aṉdar bhi mehsus hotaa thaa jaise brandy aur bewaṛaa ki baause wo bojhal ho rahi hai. 

Aage baṛ kar Raam Laal ne motor ke aṉdar baiṭhte hue adamiyoṉ se kuch kahaa. Itne meiṉ jab Sauguṅdhee motor ke paas pahuṉch gai to Raam Laal ne ek taraf haṭ kar kahaa, “leejiye wo aa gai.”

“Baṛee achee chokree hai, thoṛe hi din hue haiṉ ise dhandaa shuru kiye.” Phir Sauguṅdhee se muk͟haatib ho kar kahaa, “Sauguṅdhee, idhar ao Seṭh ji bulaate haiṉ.”

Sauguṅdhee saaṛee ka ek kinaaraa apni uṉglee par lapeṭtee hui aage baṛai aur motor ke darawaaze ke paas khaṛi ho gai. Seṭh saahib ne baitree us ke chehre ke paas raushan ki. Ek lamhe ke liye us raushni ne Sauguṅdhee ki k͟humaar alud ankhoṉ meiṉ chakaachauṉd paidaa ki. Button dabaane ki awaaz paidaa hui aur bujh gai. Saath hi Seṭh ke munh se “uṉh” niklaa. Phir ek motor ka engine phaṛaphaṛaayaa aur car yeh jaa wo jaa…

Sauguṅdhee kuch sochne bhi na paai thi ki motor chal dee. Us kee ankhoṉ meiṉ abhi tak battery ki tez raushni ghusee hui thi. Wo ṭhik tarah se Seṭh ka chehraa bhi to na dekh sakee thi. Ye ak͟hir hua kyaa thaa. Is ‘uṉh’ ka kyaa matlab thaa? Jo abhi tak us ke kaanoṉ meiṉ bhinabhinaa rahi thi. Kyaa?… kyaa?

Raam Laal dalaal ki awaaz sunaai dee, “pasand nahiṉ kiyaa tujhe. Do gheṅte muft meiṉ hi barbaad kiye.”

Ye sun kar Sauguṅdhee ki ṭaaṉgoṉ meiṉ, uskee baaṉhoṉ meiṉ, us ke haathoṉ meiṉ ek zabaradast harkat ka iraadaa paidaa hua. Kahaan thi wo motor… kahaan thaa wo Seṭh… to ‘uṉh’ ka matalab ye thaa ki us ne mujhe pasand nahiṉ kiyaa… us kee…

Gaalee us ke peṭ ke aṉdar uṭhi aur zabaan ki nok par aa kar ruk gai. Wo ak͟hir gaalee kise detee, motor to jaa chukee thi. Us kee dum ki surkha battee us ke saamane baazaar ke aṉdhiyaare meiṉ ḍub rahi thi aur Sauguṅdhee ko aisaa mahsus ho rahaa thaa ki ye laal laal aṉgaaraa ‘uṉh’ hai jo us ke seene meiṉ barme ki tarah utaraa chalaa jaa rahaa hai. Us ke ji meiṉ ayaa ke zor se pukaare, “o Seṭh, zaraa motor roknaa apni… bas ek minute ke liye.”

Wo sunsaan baazaar meiṉ khaṛi thi. Phuloṉ waalee saaṛee jo wo k͟haas k͟haas mauqaoṉ par pehnaa karti thi, raat ke pichle pahr ki halkee halkee hawaa se lahraa rahi thi. Ye saaṛee aur uskee reshmee sarasaraahat Sauguṅdhee ko kitni buree maalum hotee thi. Wo chaahtee thi ki is saaṛee ke cheethaṛe uṛaa de kyuṉke saaṛee hawaa meiṉ lahraa lahraa kar ‘uṉh uṉh’ kar rahi thi.

Gaaloṉ par us ne powder lagaayaa thaa aur hoṉtoṉ par surk͟hee. Jab use k͟hayaal ayaa ki ye siṉgaar us ne apne aapko pasand karaane ke waaste kiyaa thaa to sharam ke maare use paseenaa aa gayaa. Ye sharmiṉdagi dur karne ke liye us ne kuch sochaa… maiṉne is mue ko dikhaane ke liye thoṛee apne aapko sajaayaa thaa. Ye to meree aadat hai… meree kyaa sabakee yahi adat hai… par… par… ye raat ke do baje aur Raam Laal dalaal aur… ye baazaar… aur wo motor aur battery ki chamak… ye sochte hi raushni ke dhabbe uskee hadd-e-nigaah tak fizaa meiṉ idhar udhar tairane lage aur motor ke engine ki phaṛphaṛaahat use hawaa ke har jhoṉke meiṉ sunaai dene lagi.

Us ke maathe par baam ka lep jo siṉgaar karne ke dauraan meiṉ bilkul halkaa ho gayaa thaa, paseenaa aane ke baais us ke masaamoṉ meiṉ daak͟hil hone lagaa, aur Sauguṅdhee ko apnaa maathaa kisee aur ka maathaa maalum hua. Jab hawaa ka ek jhoṉkaa us ke araq aalud maathe ke paas se guzraa to use aisaa lagaa ki sard sard tin ka ṭukṛaa kaaṭ kar us ke maathe ke saath chaspaan kar diyaa gayaa hai. Sar meiṉ dard waise ka waisaa maujud thaa magar k͟hyalaat ki bhiṛ bhaaṛ aur un ke shor ne is dard ko apne niche dabaa rakhaa thaa.

Sauguṅdhee ne kai baar is dard ko apne k͟hyaalaat ke niche se nikaal kar upar laanaa chaahaa magar naakaam rahi. Wo chaahatee thi ke kisee na kisee tarah is ka aṉg aṉg dukhne lage, us ke sar meiṉ dard ho, us kee ṭaaṉgoṉ meiṉ dard ho, us ke peṭ meiṉ dard ho, uskee baanhoṉ meiṉ dard ho. Aisaa dard ke wo sirf dard hi ka khayaal kare aur sab kuch bhul jaaye. Ye sochte sochte us ke dil meiṉ kuch hua… kyaa ye dard thaa? Ek lamhe ke liye us ka dil sukṛaa aur phir phail gayaa… ye kyaa thaa? Laanat! Ye to wahi ‘uṉh’ thi jo us ke dil ke aṉdar kabhi sukaṛtee thi aur kabhi phailtee thi.

Ghar ki taraf Sauguṅdhee ke qadam uṭhe hi the ki ruk gae aur wo ṭhahar kar sochne lagi, Raam Laal Dalaal ka k͟hayaal hai ki use meree shakl pasand nahiṉ ai… shakl ka to us ne zikr nahiṉ kiyaa. Us ne to ye kahaa thaa, Sauguṅdhee tujhe pasand nahiṉ kiyaa! Ise… ise… sirf meree shakl hi pasand nahiṉ ai to kyaa hua? Mujhe bhi to kai adamiyoṉ ki shakl pasand nahiṉ aatee…

Wo jo amaawas ki raat ko ayaa thaa. Kitni buree surat thi us kee… kyaa maiṉne naaka-bhauṉ nahiṉ chaṛai thi? Jab wo mere saath sone lagaa thaa to mujhe ghin nahiṉ ai thi? Kyaa mujhe ubkaai ate ate nahiṉ ruk gai thi? Ṭhik hai, par Sauguṅdhee… tune use dhutkaaraa nahiṉ thaa. Tune usko thukraayaa nahiṉ thaa… us motor waale Seṭh ne to tere munh par thukaa hai… uṉh… is ‘uṉh’ ka aur matalab hi kyaa hai? Yahi ki is chachuṉdar ke sar meiṉ chambelee ka tel… uṉh… ye munh aur masur ki daal… arre Raam Laal tu ye chipkalee kahaaṉ se pakaṛ kar le ayaa hai… is lauṉdiyaa ki itni taareef kar rahaa hai tu… das rupaye aur ye aurat… khachar kyaa buree hai.

Sauguṅdhee soch rahi thi aur us ke pair ke aṉguthe se le kar sar ki choti tak garam lehreṉ dauṛ rahi theeṉ. Us ko kabhi apne aap par ġussaa ataa thaa, kabhi Raam Laal Dalaal par jisne raat ke do baje use be-aaraam kiyaa. Lekin fauran hi donoṉ ko be-qusur paa kar wo Seṭh ka k͟hayaal karti thi.

Is k͟hayaal ke ate hi us kee ankheṉ, us ke kaan, us kee baanheṉ, us kee ṭaaṉgeṉ, us ka sab kuch muṛtaa thaa ki useṭh ko kahiṉ dekh paae… us ke aṉdar khwahish baṛee shiddat se paidaa ho rahi thi ke jo kuch ho chukaa hai ek baar phir ho… sirf ek baar… wo haule-haule motor ki taraf baṛae. Motor ke aṉdar se ek haath battery nikaale aur us ke chehre par raushni pheṉke. ‘Uṉh’ ki awaaz ae aur wo… Sauguṅdhee aṉdhaadhuṉd apne donoṉ panjoṉ se uska munh nochnaa shuru kar de. Wahashi billee ki tarah jhapate aur… aur apni uṉgliyoṉ ke saare naak͟haun jo us ne maujudaa faishon ke mutaabiq baṛaa rakhe the. useṭh ke gaaloṉ meiṉ gaaṛ de… baaloṉ se pakaṛ kar use baahar ghaseeṭ le aur dhaṛaa dhaṛ mukke maarnaa shuru kar de aur jab thak jaaye… jab thak jaaye to ronaa shuru kar de.

Rone ka khayaal Sauguṅdhee ko sirf is liye ayaa ke us kee ankhoṉ meiṉ ġhusse aur bebasee ki shiddat ke baais teen-chaar baṛe baṛe ansu ban rahe the. Ekaa ikee Sauguṅdhee ne apni ankhoṉ se sawaal kiyaa. Tum rotee kyuṉ ho? Tumheṉ kyaa hua hai ki tapakne lagi ho? Ankhoṉ se kiyaa hua sawaal chund lamhaat tak un ansuoṉ meiṉ tairtaa rahaa jo ab palkoṉ par kaaṉp rahe the. Sauguṅdhee in ansuoṉ meiṉ se der tak us k͟halaa ko ghurtee rahi jidhar Seṭh ki motor gai thi.

Phaṛ phaṛ phaṛ… ye awaaz kahaaṉ se ai? Sauguṅdhee ne chauṉk kar idhar udhar dekhaa lekin kisee ko na paayaa… arre ye to us ka dil phaṛ phaṛaayaa thaa. Wo samjhi thi motor ka engine bolaa hai… us ka dil… ye kyaa ho gayaa thaa us ke dil ko! Aaj hi rog lag gayaa thaa use… achchaa bhalaa chaltaa chaltaa ek jagah ruk kar dhaṛ dhaṛ kyuṉ kartaa thaa… bilkul use ghise hue record ki tarah jo sui ke niche ek jagah aake ruk jaataa hai. Raat kaṭi gin gin taare kahtaa kahtaa taare taare ki raṭ lagaa detaa thaa.

Aasmaan taaroṉ se ataa hua thaa. Sauguṅdhee ne inkee taraf dekhaa aur kahaa kitne suṉdar haiṉ … wo chaahtee thi ki apnaa dhyaan kisee aur taraf palaṭ de. Par jab us ne suṉdar kahaa to jhat se ye khayaal us ke dimaaġh meiṉ kudaa. Ye taare suṉdar haiṉ par tu kitni bhoṉdee hai… kyaa bhul gai abhi abhi teree surat ko phatakaaraa gayaa hai?

Sauguṅdhee badsurat to nahiṉ thi. Ye khayaal ate hi wo tamaam aqs ek ek karke uskee ankhoṉ ke saamne ane lage, jo in paanch barsoṉ ke dauraan meiṉ wo aine meiṉ dekh chukee thi. Ismeṉ shak nahiṉ ki uska rang-rup ab wo nahiṉ rahaa thaa jo aaj se paanch saal pehle thaa jab ki wo tamaam fiqroṉ se azaad apne maan-baap ke saath rahaa karti thi. Lekin wo badsurat to nahiṉ ho gai thi. Us kee shakl-o-surat un aam auratoṉ ki see thi jin kee taraf mard guzarate guzarate ghur ke dekh liyaa karte haiṉ. Us meiṉ wo tamaam khubiyaaṉ maujud theeṉ jo Sauguṅdhee ke khayaal meiṉ har mard us aurat meiṉ zaruree samajhtaa hai jiske saath use ek do raateṉ basar karanaa hotee haiṉ. Wo jawaan thi, us ke azaa mutanaasib the. Kabhi kabhi nahaate waqt jab uskee nigaaheṉ apni raanoṉ par paṛtee theeṉ to wo k͟hud unkee golaai aur gudgudaahat ko pasand kiyaa karti thi.

Wo k͟hushakhalq thi. In paanch barsoṉ ke dauraan meiṉ shaayad hi koi adamee use naak͟hush ho kar gayaa ho… baṛee milanasaar thi, baṛee raham dil thi. Pichle dinoṉ jab Christmas meiṉ wo gol pethaa meiṉ rahaa karti thi, ek naujawaan laṛkaa us ke paas ayaa thaa. Subah uṭhakar jab us ne dusre kamre meiṉ jaa kar khuṉti se kot utaaraa to baṭwaa ġaayab paayaa. Sauguṅdhee ka naukar ye baṭwaa le uṛaa thaa. Bechaaraa bahut pareshaan hua. Chhuṭṭiyaaṉ guzaarane ke liye Hyderabad se Bumbai ayaa thaa. Ab us ke paas waapas jaane ke liye daam na the. Sauguṅdhee ne taras khaa kar use us ke das rupaye waapas de diye the…

Mujh meiṉ kyaa buraai hai? Sauguṅdhee ne ye sawaal har us cheez se kiyaa jo us kee ankhoṉ ke saamne thi. Gas ke aṉdhe lamp, lohe ke khuṅbe, footpath ke chaukor patthar aur saṛak ki ukhṛee hui bajree… in sab cheezoṉ ki taraf us ne baaree baaree dekhaa, phir aasmaan ki taraf nigaaheṉ uṭhaaiṉ jo us ke upar jhukaa hua thaa, magar Sauguṅdhee ko koi jawaab na milaa.

Jawaab us ke aṉdar maujud thaa. Wo jaantee thi ki wo buree nahiṉ achchee hai, par wo chaahtee thi ki koi uskee taaid kare… koi… koi… is waqt us ke kandhoṉ par haath rakh kar sirf itnaa kah de, “Sauguṅdhee! Kaun kahataa hai, tu buree hai, jo tujhe buraa kahe wo ap buraa hai…” nahiṉ ye kehne ki koi zarurat nahiṉ thi. Kisee ka itnaa kah denaa kaafee thaa, “Sauguṅdhee tu bahut achchee hai!”

Wo sochne lagi ki wo kyuṉ chaahatee hai koi us kee taareef kare. Is se pehale use is baat ki itni shiddat se zarurat mahsus na hui thi. Aaj kyuṉ wo bejaan cheezoṉ ko bhi aisee nazaroṉ se dekhtee hai jaise un par apne achche hone ka ehsaas taaree karanaa chaahatee hai, us ke jism ka zarraa zarraa kyuṉ maan ban rahaa hai… wo maan ban kar dharatee ki har shay ko apni god meiṉ lene ke liye kyuṉ taiyaar ho rahi thi? Uska ji kyuṉ chaahataa thaa ki saamne waale gais ke ahani khuṅbe ke saath chimat jaaye aur us ke sard lohe par apne gaal rakh de… apne garma-garm gaal aur uskee saaree sardee chus le.

Thoṛee der ke liye use aisaa mahsus hua ki gais ke aṉdhe laimp, lohe ke khuṅbe, phutapaath ke chaukor patthar aur har wo shay jo raat ke sannaaṭe meiṉ us ke as paas thi. Hamdardee ki nazaroṉ se use dekh rahi hai aur us ke upar jhukaa hua asamaan bhi jo matiyaale rang ki aisee moṭi chaadar maalum hotaa thaa jismeiṉ beshumaar suraak͟h ho rahe haiṉ, uskee baateiṉ samajhataa thaa aur Sauguṅdhee ko bhi aisaa lagtaa thaa ki wo taaroṉ ka timatimaanaa samajhatee hai… lekin us ke aṉdar kyaa gaṛabaṛ thi? Wo kyuṉ apne aṉdar us mausam ki fizaa mahsus karti thi jo baarish se pahale dekhne meiṉ ayaa kartaa hai… uska ji chaahtaa thaa ki us ke jism ka har mausam khul jaaye aur jo kuch us ke aṉdar ubal rahaa hai unke raste baahar nikal jaaye. Par ye kaise ho… kaise ho?

Sauguṅdhee galee ke nukkaṛ par k͟hat daalne waale laal bhabake ke paas khaṛi thi… hawaa ke tez jhoṉke se us bhabake ki ahani zabaan jo us ke khule hue munh meiṉ laṭaktee rahatee hai, laṛakhaṛaai to Sauguṅdhee ki nigaaheṉ yaka-ba-yak uskee taraf uṭhiṉ jidhar motor gai thi magar use kuch nazar na ayaa… use kitani zabaradast aarzu thi ki motor phir ek baar ae aur… aur … na ae… balaa se… maiṉ apni jaan kyuṉ bekaar halakaan karuṉ. Ghar chalte haiṉ aur araam se lumbee taan kar sote haiṉ. In jhagaṛoṉ meiṉ rakhaa hi kyaa hai. Muft ki dardasaree hi to hai… chal Sauguṅdhee ghar chal… ṭhunnde paani ka ek ḍoṉgaa pee aur thoṛaa saa baam mal kar so jaa… first class niṉd aegi aur sab ṭhik ho jaaegaa… Seṭh aur us kee motor ki aisee taisee…

Ye sochte hue Sauguṅdhee ka bojh halkaa ho gayaa. Jaise wo kisee ṭhunnde taalaab se nahaa-dho kar baahar niklee hai. Jis tarah pujaa karne ke baad us ka jism halkaa ho jaataa thaa, usee tarah ab bhi halkaa ho gayaa thaa. Ghar ki taraf chalne lagi to k͟hayaalaat ka bojh na hone ke baais us ke qadam kai baar laṛakhaṛaae.

Apne makaan ke paas pahuṉchee to ek tis ke saath phir tamaam waaqiyaa us ke dil meiṉ uṭhaa aur dard ki tarah us ke roen roen par chaa gayaa… qadam phir bojhal ho gae aur wo is baat ko shiddat ke saath mahsus karne lagi ki ghar se bulaa kar, baahar baazaar meiṉ munh par raushni ka chaaṉtaa maar kar ek adamee ne uskee abhi abhi haṭak ki hai. Ye khayaal ayaa to us ne apni pasliyoṉ par kisee ke sak͟ht aṉguṭhe mahsus kiye jaise koi use bheṛa-bakree ki tarah dabaa dabaa kar dekh rahaa hai ki ayaa gosht bhi hai ya baal hi baal haiṉ…

useṭh ne… paramaatmaa kare… Sauguṅdhee ne chaahaa ki usko baddua de, magar sochaa, baddua dene se kyaa banegaa. Mazaa to jab thaa ki wo saamne hotaa aur wo us ke wajud ke har zarre par laanateṉ likh detee… us ke munh par kuch aise alfaaz kahtee ki ziṉdagi bhar bechain rahataa… kapṛe phaaṛ kar us ke saamne nangi ho jaatee aur kahatee, “yahi lene ayaa thaa naa tu?… le daam diye binaa le jaa ise… ye jo kuch maiṉ hun, jo kuch mere aṉdar chupaa hua hai wo tu kyaa, teraa baap bhi nahiṉ k͟hareed saktaa…”

Iṉtiqaam ke naye naye tareeqe Sauguṅdhee ke zehan meiṉ aa rahe the. Agar useṭh se ek baar… sirf ek baar us kee mudabheṛ ho jaaye to ye kare. Nahiṉ ye nahiṉ. Ye kare… yuṉ usse iṉtiqaam le, nahiṉ yuṉ nahiṉ… lekin jab Sauguṅdhee sochtee ki Seṭh se us ka dobaaraa milnaa muhaal hai to wo use ek choṭi see gaalee dene hi par k͟hud ko raazee kar letee… bas sirf ek choṭi see gaalee, jo uskee naak par chipak makkhee ki tarah baith jaaye aur hameshaa wahiṉ jamee rahe.

Isee udheṛ ban meiṉ wo dusree manzil par apni kholee ke paas pahuṉch gai. Cholee meiṉ se chaabee nikaal kar taalaa kholne ke liye haath baṛhayaa to chaabee hawaa hi meiṉ ghum kar rah gai! Kuṉde meiṉ taalaa nahiṉ thaa. Sauguṅdhee ne kiwaaṛ aṉdar ki taraf dabaaye to halkee see chiṛachiṛaahat paidaa hui. Aṉdar se kuṉdee kholee gai aur darawaaze ne jamaai lee, Sauguṅdhee aṉdar daak͟hil ho gai.

Maadho munchoṉ meiṉ hasaa aur darawaazaa band karke Sauguṅdhee se kahne lagaa, “aaj tu ne meraa kahaa maan hi liyaa… subah ki sair tandurustee ke liye baṛee achchee hotee hai. Har roz is tarah subah uṭh kar ghumne jaayaa karegi to teree saaree sustee dur ho jaaegi aur wo teree kamar ka dard bhi ġaayab ho jaaegaa, jis ki baabat tu ae din shikaayat kiyaa karti hai… Victoria gaardan tak ho ai hogi tu, kyuṉ?”

Sauguṅdhee ne koi jawaab na diyaa aur na Maadho ne jawaab ki khwahish zaahir ki. Daraasal jab Maadho baat kiyaa kartaa thaa to uska matlab ye nahiṉ hotaa thaa ki Sauguṅdhee zarur us meṉ hissaa le aur Sauguṅdhee jab koi baat kiyaa karti thi ye zaruree nahiṉ hotaa thaa ki Maadho us meṉ hissaa le… chunki koi baat karnaa hotee thi, is liye wo kah diyaa karte the.

Maadho bed ki kursee par baith gayaa jis ki pusht par us ke tel se chapaṛe hue sar ne mail ka ek bahut baṛaa dhabbaa banaa rakhaa thaa aur taaṉg par taaṉg rakh kar apni muṉchoṉ par uṉgaliyaaṉ pherane lagaa.

Sauguṅdhee palang par baith gai aur Maadho se kahne lagi, “maiṉ aaj teraa iṉtizaar kar rahi thi.”

Maadho baṛaa sitapitaayaa, “iṉtizaar? tujhe kaise maalum hua ki maiṉ aj aane waalaa hun.”

Sauguṅdhee ke bhiṉche hue lab khule. Un par ek peelee muskuraahat namudaar hui, “maiṉne raat tujhe sapne meiṉ dekhaa thaa… uthi to koi bhi na thaa. So ji ne kahaa, chalo kahiṉ baahar ghum aeṉ… aur…”

Maadho k͟hush ho kar bolaa, “aur maiṉ aa gayaa… bhai baṛe logoṉ ki baateṉ baṛee pakkee hotee haiṉ. Kisee ne thik kahaa hai, dil ko dil se raah hotee hai… tu ne ye sapnaa kab dekhaa thaa?”

Sauguṅdhee ne jawaab diyaa, “chaar baje ke qareeb.”

Maadho kursee se uṭh kar Sauguṅdhee ke paas baiṭh gayaa, “aur maiṉne tujhe ṭhik do baje sapne meiṉ dekhaa… jaise tu phuloṉ waalee saaṛee… are bilkul yahi saaṛee pahne mere paas khaṛi hai, tere haathoṉ meiṉ… kyaa thaa tere haathoṉ meiṉ! Haan, tere haathoṉ meiṉ rupyoṉ se bharee hui thailee thi. Tu ne ye thailee meree jholee meiṉ rakh dee aur kahaa, Maadho tu chiṉtaa kyuṉ kartaa hai?… le ye thailee… are tere mere rupaye kyaa do haiṉ? Sauguṅdhee teree jaan ki qasam fauran uṭhaa aur ticket kaṭaa kar idhar ka ruk͟h kiyaa… kyaa sunaauṉ baṛee pareshaani hai! Baiṭhe biṭhaae ek case ho gayaa hai, ab bees-tees rupaye hoṉ to, inspector ki mutthi garm karke chutakaaraa mile… thak to nahiṉ gai tu? Leṭ jaa, meree taraf pair karke leṭ jaa.”

Sauguṅdhee leṭ gai. Donoṉ baaṉhoṉ ka takiyaa banaa kar wo un par sar rakh kar leṭ gai aur us lahje meiṉ jo us ka apnaa nahiṉ thaa, Maadho se kahne lagi, “Maadho ye kis mue ne tujh par case kiyaa hai? Bela-wel ka dar ho to mujh se kah de bees tees kyaa sau-pachchaas bhi aise mauqaoṉ par police ke haath meiṉ thamaa diye jaaeṉ to fayadaa apnaa hi hai… jaan bachee laakhoṉ paae… bas bas ab jaane de. Thakan kuch ziyadaa nahiṉ hai… mutthi chaapee choda aur mujhe saaree baat sunaa … case ka naam sunte hi meraa dil dhaka-dhak karne lagaa hai… waapas kab jaaegaa tu?”

Maadho ko Sauguṅdhee ke munh se sharaab ki baaus ai to us ne ye mauqaa achchaa samajhaa aur jhaṭ se kahaa, “dopahar ki gaaṛee se waapas jaanaa paṛegaa… agar shaam tak sab inspector ko sau-pachaas na thamaae to… ziyadaa dene ki zarurat nahiṉ. Maiṉ samajhataa hun pachaas meiṉ kaam chal jaaegaa.”

“Pachaas!” ye keh kar Sauguṅdhee baṛe araam se uṭhi aur un chaar tasweeroṉ ke paas ahistaa ahistaa gai jo deewaar par laṭak rahi theeṉ. Baaeṉ taraf se teesre frame meiṉ Maadho ki tasweer thi. Baṛe baṛe phuloṉ waale parde ke age kursee par wo donoṉ raanoṉ par apne haath rakhe baiṭhaa thaa. Ek haath meiṉ gulaab ka phul thaa. Paas hi tipaai par do moṭi moṭi kitaabeṉ dharee theeṉ. Tasweer utarawaate waqt tasweer utarawaane ka k͟hayaal Maadho par is qadar ghaalib thaa ki uskee har shay tasweer se baahar nikal nikal kar pukaar rahi thi, “hamaaraa foto utaregaa. Hamaaraa foto utaregaa!”

Camera ki taraf Maadho ankheṉ phaaṛa-phaaṛ kar dekh rahaa thaa aur aisaa maalum hotaa thaa ki foto utarawaate waqt use bahut takleef ho rahi thi.

Sauguṅdhee khikhilaa kar haṉs paṛee… uskee haṉsee kuch aisee teekhee aur nokeelee thi ki Maadho ke suiyaaṉ see chubhiṉ. Palang par se uṭh kar woh Sauguṅdhee ke paas gayaa, “kiskee tasweer dekh kar tu is qadar zaor se haṉsee hai?”

Sauguṅdhee ne baaeṉ haath ki pahalee tasweer ki taraf ishaaraa kiyaa jo municipal ke daaroghaa-e-safai ki thi. “Uskee… muṉshi paalti ke daarogaa ki… zaraa dekh to is kaa thobaṛaa… kahataa thaa, ek raani mujh par ashiq ho gai thi… uṉh! Ye munh aur masur ki daal.” Ye keh kar Sauguṅdhee ne frame ko is zaor se kheeṉchaa ki deewaar meiṉ se keel bhi palastar samet ukhaṛ ai!

Maadho ki hairat abhi dur na hui thi ke Sauguṅdhee ne frame ko khiṛkee se baahar pheṉk diyaa. Do manziloṉ se frame niche zameen par giraa aur kaaṉch ṭuṭane ki jhanakaar sunaai dee. Sauguṅdhee ne is jhanakaar ke saath kahaa, “raani bhangan kacharaa uthaane aegi to mere is raajaa ko bhi saath le jaaegi.”

Ek baar phir usee nokeelee aur teekhee humsee ki fuwaar Sauguṅdhee ke hoṉtoṉ se giranaa shuru hui jaise wo un par chaaqu ya churee ki dhaar tez kar rahi hai.

Maadho baṛee mushkil se muskuraayaa, phir hasa, “hi hi hi…”

Sauguṅdhee ne dusraa frame bhi noch liyaa aur khiṛkee se baahar pheṉk diyaa, “is saale ka yahaaṉ kyaa matlab hai?… bhoṉdee shakl ka koi admee yahaaṉ nahiṉ rahegaa… kyuṉ Maadho?”

Maadho phir baṛee mushkil se muskuraayaa aur phir hasa, “hi hi hi.”

Ek haath se Sauguṅdhee ne pagṛee waale ki tasweer utaaree aur dusraa haath us frame ki taraf baṛhayaa jis meiṉ Maadho ka foto juṛaa thaa. Maadho apni jagah par simaṭ gayaa, jaise haath uskee taraf baṛ rahaa hai. Ek second meiṉ frame keel samet Sauguṅdhee ke haath meiṉ thaa.

Zor ka qahqahaa lagaa kar us ne ‘uṉh’ ki aur donoṉ frame ek saath khiṛkee meiṉ se baahir pheṉk diye. Do manziloṉ se jab frame zameen par gire to kaaṉch ṭuṭane ki awaaz ai to Maadho ko aisaa maalum hua ki us ke aṉdar koi cheez ṭuṭ gai hai. Baṛee mushkil se us ne hans kar kahaa, “achchaa kiyaa? Mujhe bhi ye foto pasand nahiṉ thaa.”

Ahistaa ahistaa Sauguṅdhee Maadho ke paas ai aur kahne lagi, “tujhe ye foto pasand nahiṉ thaa, par maiṉ puchtee hun tujhameiṉ aisee kaun see cheez hai jo kisee ko pasand aa saktee hai… teree pakauṛaa jaisee naak, ye teraa baaloṉ bharaa maathaa, ye tere suje hue nathune. Ye tere baṛae hue kaan, ye tere munh ki baaus, ye tere badan ka mail? Tujhe apnaa foto pasand nahiṉ thaa, ‘uṉh’… pasand kyuṉ hotaa, tere aib jo chupaa rakhe the us ne, ajkal zamaanaa hi aisaa hai jo aib chupaaye wo hi buraa.”

Maadho peeche haṭtaa gayaa. Aak͟hir jab wo deewaar ke saath lag gayaa to us ne apni awaaz meiṉ zor paidaa karke kahaa, “dekh Sauguṅdhee, mujhe aisaa dikhaai detaa hai ki tu ne phir se apnaa dhundaa shuru kar diyaa hai… ab maiṉ tujh se aak͟hree baar kahtaa huṉ…”

Sauguṅdhee ne is se age Maadho ke lahje meiṉ kahnaa shuru kiyaa, “agar tu ne phir se dhundaa shuru kiyaa to bas teree meree ṭuṭ jaaegi. Agar tu ne phir kisee ko apne yahaaṉ bulaayaa to chuṭiyaa se pakaṛ kar tujhe baahar nikaal duṉgaa… is mahine ka k͟harch maiṉ tujhe Pune se hi money order kar dungaa… haan kyaa bhaaṛaa hai is kholee ka?”

Maadho chakaraa gayaa.

Sauguṅdhee ne kahnaa shuru kiyaa, “maiṉ bataatee hun… pandrah rupay bhaaṛaa hai is kholee ka… aur das rupayaa bhaaṛaa hai meraa… aur jaisaa tujhe maalum hai, dhaai rupaye dalaal ke, baaqi rahe saaṛae saat. Hai na saaṛe saat? In saaṛe saat rupayoṉ meiṉ maiṉne aisee cheez dene ka wachan diyaa thaa jo maiṉ de hi nahiṉ saktee thi. Aur tu aisee cheez lene ayaa thaa jo tu le hi nahiṉ sakataa thaa… teraa meraa naaṭaa hi kyaa thaa. Kuch bhi nahiṉ. Bas ye das rupaye tere aur mere beech meiṉ baj rahe the, so ham donoṉ ne mil kar aisee baat ki ke tujhe meree zarurat aur mujhe teree… pehle tere aur mere beech meiṉ das rupaye bajte the, aj pachaas baj rahe haiṉ. Tu bhi in kaa bajanaa sun rahaa hai aur maiṉ bhi in kaa bajanaa sun rahi hun… ye tune apne baaloṉ ka kyaa satyaanaas kar rakhaa hai?”

Ye kah kar Sauguṅdhee ne Maadho ki ṭopee uṉglee se ek taraf uṛaa dee. Ye harkat Maadho ko bahut naagawaar guzaree. Us ne baṛe kaṛe lahje meiṉ kahaa, “Sauguṅdhee!”

Sauguṅdhee ne Maadho ki jeb se rumaal nikaal kar sunghaa aur zameen par pheṉk diyaa, “Ye cheethaṛe, ye chindiyaan… uf kitni buree baaus atee hai, uṭhaa ke baahar pheṉk inko…”

Maadho chillaayaa, “Sauguṅdhee.”

Sauguṅdhee ne tez lehje meiṉ kahaa, “Sauguṅdhee ke bachche tu ayaa kis liye hai yahaaṉ? Teree maan rahtee hai is jagah jo tujhe pachchaas rupaye degi? Ya tu koi aisaa baṛaa gabaru jawaan hai jo maiṉ tujh par ashiq ho gai hun… kutte, kameene, mujh par rob gaaṉthataa hai? Maiṉ teree dabail hun kyaa? Bhik munge tu apne aapko samajh kyaa baiṭ haa hai? Maiṉ kahtee hun tu hai kaun? Chor ya gath kataraa? Is waqt tu mere makaan meiṉ karne kyaa ayaa hai? Bulaauṉ police ko… Pune meiṉ tujh par case ho na ho. Yahaaṉ to tujh par ek case khaṛaa kar dun…”

Maadho saham gayaa. Dabe hue lahaje meiṉ wo sirf is qadar kah sakaa, “Sauguṅdhee, tujhe kyaa ho gayaa hai?”

“Meree maan ka sar… tu hotaa kaun hai mujhse aise sawaal karne waalaa… bhaag yahaaṉ se, warnaa…”

Sauguṅdhee ki buland awaaz sun kar us ka k͟haarish zadaa kuttaa jo sukhe hue chappaloṉ par munh rakhe so rahaa thaa, haṛbaṛaa kar uṭh baithaa aur Maadho ki taraf munh uṭhaa kar bhoṉkanaa shuru kar diyaa. Kutte ke bhauṉkne ke saath hi Sauguṅdhee zor se hansne lagi.

Maadho ḍar gayaa. Giree hui topee uṭhaane ke liye wo jhukaa to Sauguṅdhee ki garaj sunaai dee, “k͟habaradaar… paṛee rahne de wahiṉ… tu jaa, tere Pune pahuṉchate hi maiṉ is ko money order kar dungi.”

Ye kah kar wo aur zor se hansee aur hanste hanste kursee par baiṭh gai. Us ke k͟haarishzadaa kutte ne bhauṉk-bhauṉk kar Maadho ko kamre se baahar nikaal diyaa. Seeṛiyaaṉ utar kar jab kuttaa apni tuṉd mund dum hilaataa Sauguṅdhee ke paas ayaa aur us ke qadmoṉ ke paas baiṭh kar kaan phaṛphaṛaane lagaa to Sauguṅdhee chauṉkee… us ne apne chaaroṉ taraf ek haulnaak sannaaṭaa dekhaa… aisaa sannaaṭaa jo us ne pehle kabhi na dekhaa thaa.

Use aisaa lagaa ke har shay k͟haalee hai… jaise musaafiroṉ se ladee hui railgaaṛee sab stationoṉ par musaafir utaar kar ab lohe ke shaid meiṉ bilkul akelee khaṛi hai. Ye k͟halaa jo achaanak Sauguṅdhee ke aṉdar paidaa ho gayaa thaa, use bahut takleef de rahaa thaa. Us ne kaafee der tak is khalaa ko bharne ki koshish ki. Magar besud, wo ek hi waqt meiṉ beshumaar k͟hayaalaat apne dimaaġh meiṉ ṭhuṉstee thi magar bilkul chalni ka saa hisaab thaa. Idhar dimaaġh ko par karti thi, udhar wo k͟haalee ho jaataa thaa.

Bahut der tak wo bed ki kursee par baiṭhi rahi. Soch bichaar ke baad bhi jab us ko apnaa dil parchaane ka koi tareeqa na milaa to us ne apne k͟haarishzadaa kutte ko god meiṉ uṭhaayaa aur saagwaan ke chauṛe palang par use pahlu meiṉ liṭaa kar so gai.

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