Sugni sat on the tray of the truck watching the bednis perform Rai to the rythmic beats of the drums. The rich thakurs were already drunk and making suggestive remarks at the bednis. As they finished the dance, the thakurs threw lots of money at them. The bednis all smiled and
scooped up as much of the money as they could and tucked it into their blouses before making their way to the truck for a short break.
"Do you see how simple it was?" Aunt Meera asked her as they refreshed their throats with water and wine.
"Yes aunty, but I am still not sure that this is the right path for me. I just don't think I could perform Rai," Sugni said in a weak tone. She just could
not stand the thought of the thakurs watching her dance and making lewd remarks at her.
"Then how do you suppose you will support your family? Gulabiya is ill as it is, Laxmi needs money for her hospital bills and Nagania needs
money for the household expenses. If your uncles had not run off with your mother's money then that could have supported you all for sometime.
The grocery bill needs to be paid. Gulabiya is a good friend of mine but I also have my own bills to pay. You need to make up your mind soon. As it is
you don't really have much of a choice right now." Aunt Meera told her.
Bleakly, she realised that it was all true. There was no other option right now. They barely had anything left in the cupboard to eat and Gulabiya's medication
was almost over. Laxmi would be ready to give birth in a couple weeks and there was no money for the hospital bills. When she really thought
about it, the only option left was to do Rai and get her sardakai done.
Aunt Meera touched her on her shoulder in comfort before she headed back to do a final performance for the night. Tears flowed from Sugni's
eyes when she thought of all her unfulfilled dreams. Before, she used to look up at the sky and dream of the near future when she and her mother
would move to the city and start a new life. But now because of present circumstances, there was just no use dreaming anymore.
What's the point when she knew they would never come true. She looked at Aunt Meera and the other bednis and knew that the next time, she
would not be a spectator but she would be out there in the middle of the crowd dancing with the rest of the bednis. After all, what other choice did
"Mother, you are not thinking rationally. Please take a rest and then we will think of a solution," Uma was trying her utmost best to calm her
mother down. But she was so very angry and refusing to listen to anyone. "I don't think the situation is that bad that we need to lose our reputation
in the process."
"What reputation Uma? How dare that woman walk out on Bhushan? Everyone in the village knows what happened. So what if he slapped her
once? She deserved it!! Who does she think she is?" MaSaheb was so angry right now. They had all gone to the next village to attend a friend's
wedding. Bhushan was on one of his drinking sprees with Jwala Singh and found himself flirting with a bedni. His wife, Suman, was deeply
embarassed by his flirting and yelled at him. He, in turn, slapped her and she got angry and left him and their home. A thakurain walking out on
her husband was just not heard off and MaSaheb was deeply embarassed and very angry. "How will I show my face in society again?"
"Ma, let's just cal.."
"No Uma. I want you to call Suman on the phone right now. Let her know that she needs to get back in this house right away or else heads will roll!!"
"Okay ma, I will call her and speak to her but you need to calm down now before your blood pressure hits the roof."
Uma left her mother to relax and went into the other room to call Suman. She knew how upset Suman was when she saw Bhushan with that bedni.
It was so difficult watching one's husband flirt with another woman right in front of your eyes and know that you cannot do a single thing
about it because that was the tradition. The thakurs tradition. Uma had experienced that same situation with her own late husband and she knew
that tradition or not, she never wanted her younger sister, Kuhu, to go through that nor did she want any of her brothers to follow that tradition.
For awhile it looked like Bhushan was completely and totally in love with Suman only but recently he started going out on business meetings with
Jwala Singh and now it seemed he had also gotten into the bedni tradition. MaSaheb, she knew, just hated bednis to the pit of her stomach. But
she followed the thakurs' traditions to the tee and saw no problem with any of her sons having a bedni. After all, according to her, her father had
one and even her husband did. That was just their way of life, the thakurs' way of life. Suman needed to put up and shut up as far as MaSaheb was
"Uh...ma..Suman has refused to come back unless Bhushan apologises publicly to her and promises to never look at another woman again..." Uma
was terrified to reveal this to MaSaheb but there was no other choice.
"What? She wants a public apology???... Here is my decision...Tell Suman that if she is not back in this house by tomorrow evening, then I will
personally select a bedni for Bhushan and she will live in the guest house..."
"Ma?...what are you saying?"
"I want no arguments. That is my final decision," MaSaheb was firm and walked away. It was time for her evening prayers.
Uma did not agree with MaSaheb's decision. She felt really bad for Suman, who was actually from the city. She did not understand these traditions
of rai and sardakai. She was in fact, disgusted with such practices when she learnt just what Uma had gone through.
Uma just could not find the courage to tell Suman about MaSaheb's order. There just had to be something she could do...Suddenly an idea came
to her mind and she hurried to her room to make a private phone call...