It’s a long tiring day and everyone is at dining table by everyone I mean all the gents of the family, the ladies are busy serving food, there is chattering and murmuring among the three brothers and their children. Suddenly there is a silence as Ramakant arrives at the table he takes his seat and says to his wife “…khana kya ab mai khud lu hath se” on which the other gents start giggling.
Apart from regular family members there is a new guest at the table along with Sachhi bua. New guest is a teenage girl in with a blooming look although not happy but something which makes you talk to her. On a look from Ramakant Sachhi bua starts telling her purpose at haveli today, where she says that this is her husband’s niece who has recently lost her parent in shot circuit at farm. Due to no one to take care of her anymore and Sachi and her husband being away for work, she wants the girl to be helping hand at Ramakant’s haveli. Ramakant accepts the offer and the new girl is kept as a servant.
Ramakant is one of the richest man in Kumba district with his luxurious haveli and three sons of which two are married and the third one is a teenager. Ramakant by profession is trader and also has acres of land as heritage, but even though with all this wealth and power he is not known for good things. He is the most orthodox when it comes to gender difference, he treats women as a slave but it’s a bit common for Indian society.
The first two sons Rajendra and Dharmendra of Ramakant follow their fathers foot prints and treat their wife and all other ladies as a slave. But the youngest son is quite a different person he is more towards his mother and has different opinion. His name is Sumeet, he has his own dream of getting out of his village and setting down in a city, this are thoughts which are nurtured in him by his mother where she tells him how their world is not the perfect one and how backward the haveli rules and customs are. His mother Sumitra tells him to get out of this mess and settle down with good people around him.
Sumeet follows his mother words and aspire of studying in a city. Ramakant was fine with his decision and everything was going smooth for Sumeet and his mother for that matter, until the day when the new guest arrives.
The new girl Shivali, as earlier said she was different than other girls at Kumba. As Ramakant’s family Kumba was equivalently backward and the other gender never had a significance. Shivali was from Tiruha village not much different than Kumba but the people there sent girls to school. SCHOOL a not so big thing for cities but in the remote parts of the country it can do miracles and one such miracle was Shivali.
Shivali was smart and knew what was right and wrong in her small age. She slaved at haveli working with Ramakant’s bahus at kitchen and other households. After the morning work was done all the home ladies gathered and sit at the terrace and chat, Shivali never sat among them but used to listen to their stories or griefs. The bahus usually talked about how their husband beat them every night after being drunk. Shivali knew that one day that was her fate too, no woman was spared from that, the most dreadful stories was the one in which their husband brutally raped them and enjoyed slapping them naked till they start bleeding.
On contrary to other men of haveli Shivali found Sumeet to be different and it took no time for them become friends, as perfect it sounds or as like in Bollywood movies it was not that easy neither their friendship nor how they became friends.
It was night time, after dinner all ladies went to washing utensils and other winding up work. Ramakant was drunk that night Sumeet knew that his father will do some harm to his mother today, as Ramakant was old now and didn’t beat his wife that often as compared to his sons but once he is drunk he cannot be trusted. Sumeet went to the backside of the haveli under his parent’s room and stood there in bushes here he could hear everything clearly. He kept listening to his parent’s conversation where Ramakant rudely insults his mother with each sentence he speaks, Sumeet keeps calm as he has done until now but he could not control once he hears his mother screaming he looks around and throws a stone towards the window big enough to break the glass which diverts Ramakant’s focus from Sumitra to window and put him into question about who did this. Sumeet has been using this tricks for a while to distract his father whenever he is about to beat his mother but this time his action had a witness. Shivali was also curious to watch what happens to Sumitra when drunk Ramakant enters the room so she too went into the bushes under Ramakant’s room, but to her surprise she finds Sumeet and hides in other side of the bushes. After watching the stone incident, she confronts Sumeet about what he did on which Sumeet asks her to stay away from the matter, to which Shivali agrees. The next day there is an unseen bond between the two right from the breakfast till afternoon when Sumeet leaves for school might be the secret which Shivali knows about Sumeet was the reason or Shivali just found a guy who was different than other men, whatever the reason was they started to talk not in front everyone but at places where there was no one.
There usual chats involved the strict customs of haveli for women and how Ramakant did all wrong things and still is being respected in family and society on which Sumeet had his usual answer where he says that his solution is to get away from this backward society to a modern life in City.
To which Shivali always laughed on this answer because she felt that running away is never a solution to any problem you should always try and resolve the problem. Shivali was girl who could never let anything go without a fight, she further tells Sumeet how she convinced Sacchi bua to take her here instead of marrying her to some guy in village.
It was raining heavily in Kumba that night, winds blowing at high speed, was a breath taking view. Shivali completed her household chores and went to her bed which was a store room at corner of haveli. It was a tiring day for her with preparation for upcoming festival of some Goddess. Suddenly there was a loud noise of someone screaming in pain, it was so painful that Shivali couldn’t sleep but no one in the haveli took notice because the screaming and crying of a woman was a regular thing and it can be from anyone’s bedroom.
The next morning was worst it was Ramakant’s elder son Rajendra who was beating his wife last night and due to his excessive beatings his wife was found dead in her bed. This incident shook up the haveli, chills went through Shivali’s entire body as she never thought that those beatings would reach such horror full ending. She started cursing herself as she could have stopped that from happening only if she didn’t think that woman getting beaten by men is a normal thing. As any other case the people of Kumba didn’t bother much for woman’s death and everyone forgot within a while, but it was not same with Shivali she couldn’t sleep for days and talked with Sumeet on all this, he had his different stand on this he said they could do nothing about this as his father won’t file a police case against his own son under any circumstances and Sumeet also felt that Rajendra was his elder brother and he did all under influence of alcohol and beside that he has 3 children to raise and what will happen to them if he goes to jail?. Sumeet’s words were completely bitter for Shivali as she thought Sumeet as someone different but he had love for his brother which stopped him from going against his brother. Sumeet had already discussed this incident with his mother but even she had same concern and they accepted the death of Rajendra’s wife.
Years passed and after that death incident Shivali and Sumeet sorted their differences, they grew as close friends although with conflict of thoughts but again friendship is a mutual relation it doesn’t mean imposing thoughts on anyone. It was time for Sumeet to leave the village and go for higher studies in city, this was the time Sumeet and his mother was preparing till today, at the same time Ramakant had an idea of marrying his youngest son before he leaves for the city. This was a crucial time for Sumeet as if he gets married to a girl here he has to return Kumba for that girl which was surely not what his mother and he planned. Sumitra would never let this happen she was determined lady although weak in front of her husband but have ability divert his mind. She took this as an opportunity and convinced Ramakant that their eldest son Rajendra was without wife and he has 3 children to be taken care of, so ideally they should marry Rajendra again before even thinking about Sumeet’s marriage or else Rajendra will feel that his parents don’t care about him. And once Rajendra is settle again we can get wife for Sumeet anytime. Ramakant usually doesn’t involve his wife in any of his decisions but he loved his three sons more than anything in his life and he didn’t want his elder son to think that he didn’t care about him.
This was time when Sachhi bua’s husband passed away and she started to stay at Ramakant’s haveli but she was not that much respected even though being Ramakant’s elder sister. That thing always bothered Sachhi, she heard the news that Ramakant is planning for Rajendra’s marriage and looking for younger bride even though Rajendra himself was in his 40s.
Sachhi thought of this as an opportunity of getting the respect she deserves in haveli; she took no time in finding Rajendra a bride. Bride was none other than her husband’s niece Shivali, marrying Shivali to Ramakant’s eldest son gives all power to Sachhi which she was looking for.
As soon as she suggested that Shivali will marry Rajendra, Ramakant was happy as Shivali was young and was already a servant at their haveli what else he could expect for a widower.
This news was not pleasing for Shivali as it was for everyone else she straight away went to Sumeet and told him that she was unhappy by this marriage. Sumeet who was earlier happy as there were just few months left for escape from this orthodox village but somehow Rajendra’s marriage was the reason for his happiness never expected that Shivali would be prey to his mother’s plan he felt bad for her, he couldn’t say anything at the moment but promised her that he will help her out. Shivali all of sudden said that she has solution, she proposed Sumeet that if he tells Ramakant that he likes her and want to marry her then Ramakant would do so as he would not want his sons to fight over a woman and he will think for some other bride for Rajendra. Sumeet somewhere in his mind already started liking Shivali as she was beautiful and confident girl, in this mixed feeling he went to his mother and told her about what Shivali has proposed but Sumitra was not so happy with all of this, she was furious with the thought Sumeet getting married at this point where the chance of leaving Kumba was so close. Sumitra explained him what could happen if everything works out as of Shivali’s plan, that he has to return Kumba after studying and join their family business and be like his father and brothers do all illegal means of business which they both were against from beginning. Sumeet always trusted his mother and he did the same this time he went back to Shivali and told her that why he couldn’t help her. This was the second time when Sumeet didn’t helped Shivali, first was when she asked for filling case against Rajendra for his wife murder and now with this. But beneath his decision Sumeet was not happy with his stand and really wanted to help Shivali but restrained by his mother’s words he couldn’t do anything.
The day came when Shivali was married to a man twice of her age and with 3 children of about her age. This was the reality of a smart and different girl who didn’t let go anything without a fight, but it’s not a movie where there is happy ending because it doesn’t have a director which is human, the director of all real life stories is God and he doesn’t seem to be much interested in happy endings. As the night proceeded the time came for suhaag raat, this was the phase which Shivali never wanted to happen but it happened. The next morning was different she lost something to someone, dignity maybe. More than losing she felt betrayed by a close friend twice.
After some time, she got into the environment of typical Indian woman with husband and children although not her own, doing the duties of badi bahu of the haveli, yes there was a change slight though, from servant to someone with some more responsibilities. No one would have thought that Shivali would sustain so much pressure and violence. Meanwhile Sumeet settled down in city completed his education started working for a corporate. It was Holi the festival of colors all the men and women would play with colors. This is an event in which you can touch any woman under name of this colorful festival so did everyone at haveli be it Jeth (Husband’s elder brother) or Bhabhi everything is allowed today. Sumeet was at haveli for festival as usual he wasn’t that cool with this kind of festival he played Holi amongst his friends. Whereas Rajendra and Dharmendra were at their peak behaviors with rubbing and touching ladies at haveli both drinking bhaang to their capacites.
As the day progressed there was little interaction between Shivali and Sumeet as both kept mum for all these years. Shivali approached Sumeet with gulaal thali in her hand she said “devar ji humare sath holi nahi khelenge ? ”, it was surprising to Sumeet how Shivali spoke to him and simultaneously felt bad and ran away from the scene, wanting this awkward situation go away as soon as possible. But all he could do was hiding his tears and putting a mask of smile on his face. Later that day he didn’t interact with Shivali and was running away from her presence, how things changed once he used to wait hours to see her smile and now he just can’t take it anymore. Its evening and the sun has created a reddish wave in sky and with it the Holi has come to climax with anyone hardly recognizable. The gents slept on terrace all drunk and in color, Sumeet too slept there with his brothers and cousins.
Its next day afternoon slowly everyone woke up, took bath and left for work, Sumitra asked Sumeet to wake his brothers, he goes there tries to wake Dharmendra and after several attempts he wakes up and goes for bath. Sumeet tries to wake up Rajendra but even after several attempts Rajendra didn’t move and slowly Sumeet notice a white liquid to Rajendra’s mouth and he realized that his was body was cold. He ran to his mother and other family members and called them for help. Everyone gathered and took Rajendra’s body to his bedroom and called the doctor. Shivali started crying along with other ladies of haveli, doctor came and checked Rajendra and declared him as dead. It was one big shock to Ramakant and family, later the reason for death was found to be cheap quality liquor.
Ramakant mourned his elder son with all his heart out, this was the worst thing happened to him and haveli. Sumeet couldn’t take this grief and left for city after the last rituals, he couldn’t imagine his family through this tough time. Days passed and family had just recollected itself back from grief of Rajendra. Ramakant wanted to retire from all his responsibility by handing over the business to Rajendra’s elder son, Dharmendra and Sumeet, but for this to happen he wanted to arrange Sumeet’s marriage as soon as possible. He called a pandit and asked him for suitable bride for Sumeet and also asked Sumeet to leave his corporate job and return to Kumba where he belong. Now Ramakant wanted all his sons under his roof no matter what it is.
Sumitra again was not in the favor of Sumeet returning to Kumba so she called Sumeet and told him to lie his father that he is already married to some low caste girl, this way Ramakant would never accept him back into the haveli. Sumitra thought she would rescue her son this time too as she did earlier, but now something had changed in Sumeet. The day Shivali called him “devar ji” is still a fresh memory for him and like a wound it hurts him day in and day out. For Sumeet the Holi day’s look in Shivali’s eyes was telling Sumeet that he and his solution of running away from problem was responsible for her conditions. Sumeet immersed in thoughts completely went back to Kumba and listened to Ramakant’s proposal about his marriage and business in Kumba. To everyone’s surprise Sumeet nodded his head and said something which no one expected. He said he will accept all these things only if he is married to Shivali. The haveli stopped for a moment and Ramakant furiously stood and walked towards his bedroom, Ramakant now in his old age and with his elder son gone was feeling weak. He sat on his bed and thought about what if he says yes to Sumeet’s proposal as he didn’t want anybody to touch Rajendra’s widow but saying no will also dishearten Sumeet and it may completely break his relation with Sumeet which he was more concerned now. He called Sumeet to his room as Sumeet enters the room standing in front of him, Ramakant slaps Sumeet to the extent he falls on the floor, somehow Sumeet manages to stand where Ramakant starts by saying “Mujhe nahi laga tha tu aisa niklenge!!”. Further with all those harsh words Ramakant says do whatever you want I will arrange your marriage with Shivali but you need to stay here and administer family business as you are the only one who had completed education and if you try to leave Kumba I will kill you with by my bare hands, what do you think I don’t know what you mother son conspire behind my back. Sumeet nods his head and walks away. In his mind he thinks this was a chance to do justice with Shivali and he took it.
There Shivali completely shock by Sumeet’s decision calls him at their old meeting place outside haveli at distant land. There she asks for an explanation to which Sumeet says he is not running from the problem this time instead he is trying to solve it by taking actions. He also says Ramakant has given him all control to their business and now he will administer the business as well as the haveli. To which Shivali remains silent and does not say a word back.
What happens next is not that important here, may be they both get married and Sumeet did change the haveli customs and life of women at haveli but what’s important is who changed Sumeet or Shivali?
Was there a change in Shivali as earlier a girl with tough attitude turns into a weak woman or the change was in Sumeet, what made him to take such big step, the look in Shivali’s eyes on Holi?
Isn’t that the change in Sumeet was also an outcome of Shivali’s Holi look? And from where did the cheap liquor came when everyone was drinking bhaang?
You can figure out that Shivali didn’t let go things without a fight, she achieved things slowly and steadily. Shivali was a killer (Kira) of customs the haveli stood by, directly or indirectly.