The Delhi walla's pretension in writing makes me want to lodge a bullet in his balls - Blogger Nimpipi, the woodchuck chucks
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Family picnic in Lodhi Garden.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
One summer evening in Lodhi Garden, The Delhi Walla came across a man, a woman, another woman and a child.
Mr Ashok Kumar, 27, was sitting on a park bench between two ladies – Rekha and Santoshi. Both women were dressed in bright, colouful clothes. Mr Kumar said they were his wives. As if on cue, Rekha and Santoshi shyly smiled while casting sidelong glances at The Delhi Walla. Unaware of her parents' uniqueness, little Khushi, Rekha’s six-month-old daughter safely ensconced in her mother’s lap, looked around at the world with big, black eyes.
But isn’t bigamy unlawful in Hindu marriage? How do the two women live together?
Further chitchat revealed that it was the first time that the family had come to Lodhi Garden. Mr Kumar is a building contractor, a native of Rajasthan and a Delhi resident for the past 20 years. He owns a two-room house in Mahipalpur.
Now to the family history.
A decade ago, Mr Kumar met Rekha, whose father had come from Bihar and was employed as a chowkidar in Vasant Kunj. Sparks flew, romance bloomed, but the courtship continued for some time. “Finally, we had a love marriage in 2008,” said Mr Kumar.
“She is very clean in her heart,” said Mr Kumar on Rekha. “I wanted a boy just like him,” replied Rekha. Listening to their talk, Santoshi, the second wife, beamed in delight. Mr Kumar had married her early in 2009. She hails from Jharkhand.
But why did he marry again when he was already married to the woman he loved? Both the wives got cagey at this, so the conversation had to be steered away.
How comfortable is Rekha with her sauten? What is it like to have your husband remarrying even before you have celebrated your first wedding anniversary? Is she angry? Does she feel cheated?
The answer seems like a non sequitur but perhaps says a lot: “In 2005, when my father had a heart problem and had to be admitted to medical (AIIMS), it was Ashok who helped more than my own brother.”
“But her father still died,” Mr Kumar noted apologetically, as if it was his fault.
The memory of a dead father brought a silence that was broken only when Khushi started yelling. Mr Kumar suggested that perhaps the baby wants mother’s milk. Rekha stood up, took the baby behind a tree and soon the child’s crying stopped.
Now alone with his second wife, Mr Kumar requested a photograph of him with Santoshi. But just then, Rekha appeared and, taking in the scene, all liveliness was drained off her face.
Sensing she was hurt, a red-faced Kumar immediately called his first wife to join him in the family portrait, but she turned away. Santoshi looked down and gave a she-is--doing-it-again smile.
On repeated requests, Rekha finally took her place on the bench but before they could get ready for the picture, Khushi started bawling with a new vigour.
Mr Kumar now took the baby in his arms. “Perhaps she wants water,” said Santoshi. She threw aside her stylish white handbag, took out a water bottle from another bag, poured a few drops into the bottle’s plastic cap and put it to Khushi’s lips. The howling ceased. Smugly sitting between his two women, holding his child, Mr Kumar quietly enjoyed the family scene.
Do the women never fight? “Nahin, hum pyar se rehte hain,” Santoshi replied in a low voice. Rekha did not say a word.
A few minutes passed in certain awkwardness before Mr Kumar ventured to say, “Listen, this is my daughter, these are my wives and I don’t want anything else in life.”
Immediately after this declaration, the family got up from the bench; the husband returned the water bottle to the bag, the wives readjusted their saris and they then started towards one of the Lodhi tombs.
(From left) Santoshi, Mr Kumar, Khushi, Rekha
Three is company
Khushi with Rekha, Mother No. 1
Mr Kumar, where is Rekha?
Just another family?