A thought provoking and impressive short story+
(Renu Singh’s literary career discovered itself with the Hindi novel, ‘Vaapsi’. According to her ‘it was the first introduction to the writer in her’. Vaapsi is the first Hindi novel to be written and published in North America, and is honoured with the House of Commons Achievement Award in 2001. She has also written children’s books, two of which are in submission. She enjoys writing Poetry. Some short stories in Hindi have been published in magazines, and an English postcard story dragged itself to be among the first sixty finalists in a postcard story competition held by the Writers Union of Canada.Renu Singh has just completed an English novel, ‘The Return’, which is in the process of being reviewed.
She strongly believes: ‘Writings write themselves using the writer as a medium. And it is my effort to be a good medium, and I’m open to any criticism on my work.’
‘Likhari’ is very pleased to re-publish a thought provoking and impressive short story: ‘The Order,’ and ‘The Word.’)
The Order— Renu Singh
“What do you mean you can’t take him away?” Suman was yelling at the Police Officer who stood there staring at her with a concerned look. He arrived there in his cruiser after someone placed a 911 call from this address.
“Please take him away…please.” She pleaded again.
“Calm down Madam, and listen to me. Your husband isn’t home, so you don’t have to worry about him for now. Just calm down, O.K.?” The Officer repeated himself again.
“He is not going to disappear! He is just waiting for you to go away. He is going to kill me and I want you to arrest him.”
“Did he threaten to kill you?”
“No, but I know he’ll. I saw that in his eyes.”
“Why don’t I call the shelter for you and you’ll be safe there.”
“I am not going to no shelter with my four children. Officer, all I am asking you is to make him go away from me and my children. That’s all I ask for.”
“Why don’t you do one thing?” The Officer looked at her sympathetically. There wasn’t much he could do for her. There wasn’t anything to lay charges and she admitted there were no utter threats.
She looked up at him for answers she wanted but he didn’t have for her.
“This is the address for the Family Court. You go there tomorrow and file for a Restraining Order. You’ll get it right away and if he harass you after that, Police will be able to assist you.” The Officer scribbled the Court address down for her and with few more instructions, he left the residence.
Suman spent the entire night waiting for the morning. Paul hadn’t come back. Maybe he was afraid of Police returning that night. The next morning, after dropping the six and eight year old off at the school, Suman bundled the year old twin girls up and headed towards the courthouse. She forgot to lock the car as she pushed the stroller through the main entrance. The next two hours, she spent filling the forms out. The staff had been very helpful to her. For a while, all her problems seemed under control, as she handed her forms in.
“Sorry, your forms aren’t filled out completely. You’ll have to have the affidavit filled out and also, you are missing out the rules.”
“I am not a lawyer. I did what I could.” Suman said, trying to ignore the crying babies in the stroller. It had been a long morning and she hadn’t fed the babies yet.
“I understand Madam, and I suggest to you that you speak to the Duty Counsel.”
“What the hell is that?”
“Legal Aid Lawyer that the government provides you to assist you with any legal issues.” The girl felt sorry for her, but the rules had to be followed and there wasn’t much she could do for her at that point. Forms needed to be filled out properly.
“Where do I find the Duty Counsel?” Suman sighed. Maybe, she will feed the twins before doing anything else.
“On the fourth floor.”
“Can I file the forms with the Duty Counsel?”
“I am sorry, but you’ll have to come back here to file your motion.”
“Do you understand that this is an emergency?”
“I do Madam, and that’s why it’s important that you fill out the forms correctly.”
Suman shook her head and spent the next hour feeding and changing the girls. She had a pounding headache by then, but she was determined to get the order before she returned home. Paul was high on drugs lately and she didn’t trust him a bit. The Duty Counsel was a kind older gentleman who helped her fill out the forms and even provided her with some emotional support. She felt like a winner when she finally submitted her forms. It felt as if she had won half the battle already.
“When do I get the order?”
“Your motion will be dealt with in chambers and it could take up to four days for an answer.” The clerk pointed out to the notice posted on the wall.
“Four days! You mean I have to wait for four days to breathe? Do you realize what I have been through?”
“This is the procedure Madam, but I can speak to my Supervisor and she can try to have a Justice look at your motion right away.”
“Could you do that please!” Suman was in tears by now. There was no way she could return home without an order. She also knew that her parents would have a fit when they find out. But at that moment, she didn’t care. They weren’t her worry right then. She will deal with them afterwards.
“But the Officer said I’ll get the order right away.”
“I’m sorry but that’s not true. Let me see if we could take this to a Justice right away. It’ll still take some time though.”
“How long? Because I have two children at school and I have to be back before they finish school.” Suman looked at her watch. It was almost 1:30 p.m.
“Maybe an hour or two.”
“O.K. I’ll wait here. And…thanks. It’s just that I’m very stressed out.” She tried to smile and sat down on one of the chairs. The twins finally fell asleep. She was hungry but didn’t want to leave the area in case the order was ready. The next two hours felt like two lifetimes when the clerk finally motioned her to come to the counter and gave her the typed order.
“Please read the order and let me know if all the names are correct.” She asked her politely.
Suman glanced at the order and then looked up at the clerk, “Is this everything I need?”
“I don’t know. But this is the order that has been granted. I guess if that’s what you asked for in your motion! There is a restraining order against your husband, so he can’t harass you or come near you. Call the Police if he still bothers you. A copy of this order will be sent to he Police too.” The clerk assured her.
“Oh, thanks so much. I guess I can sleep tonight.” She took a deep breath and secured the order in her bag. With another grateful smile, Suman pushed the stroller away.
There was still time for the older ones to finish school. She decided to go home and change the babies and get a cup of tea for herself. She was completely exhausted. She was just walking away from the counter after putting the kettle on, the doorbell rang. She was surprised to see her older brother.
“Suman, What the hell you’ve been up to?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You very well know what I am talking about. Sue, you are forgetting our cultural values. How can you call Police on Paul? He is your husband and it’s a family matter that you’ve dragged into the courts.”
“Bali, you don’t know what he’s been doing. I’ve taken enough and now…”
“Now what? So, you are going to disgrace all of us by leaving him? No girl in our family has ever left her husband and we are not going to let it happen now.”
“Either you stop this nonsense or I swear to God, I will kill you.”
“You…you don’t care about me Bali? Why don’t you understand that Paul will kill me and he is on drugs lately? He is going to kill me Bali.” Sue was crying now.
“I think you are losing your mind. Paul came to see me today and he is fine. It’s you who needs help not him. You are the one trying to disgrace us all. What has gotten into you? Even though you are in Canada, you’re still Indian. Living here doesn’t mean that you act like one of these Canadian women. Their culture is different than ours. And under no circumstances, I’ll let you get away with this nonsense.”
“I can’t live with him anymore Bali. He beats me every day.”
“Tomorrow, I want you to go back to Court and cancel everything you’ve been doing over there. Do you understand?” His eyes were blazing.
“Look at your children and think about their lives. How can you even think about taking their father away from them? And how can we let you do such a thing? I would rather kill you first before you let all of us down.” Bali looked at his sister with a look that almost killed her.
“I’ll be back with Paul as he is afraid to come near you now since you have placed that stupid Court Order against him. Gosh Suman! I wish you weren’t my sister.” He turned around and left.
Suman got the twins ready, picked up the older ones from school and headed towards the courthouse. Few moments later, she was standing at the counter, feeling as shattered as she looked.
“I would like to cancel the order I got this morning and cancel my application.” She didn’t feel the words coming out of her mouth.
“And why do you want to cancel it?” The clerk looked at her suspiciously. This woman was here earlier this morning, begging for protection and now she wants to cancel the order.
“If there is an order that can restrain my culture from harassing me, I would like to have it. Otherwise, this one order against one person isn’t going to do anything for me. There are too many elements to fight with.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I want to cancel it.”
That night she looked at her children as they slept peacefully. Suman’s mother just called a few minutes ago and praised her for being a good wife, a good mother and an obedient daughter, who didn’t let her parents down in the society. She sighed and walked upstairs where her husband was snoring after beating her up for being such a bitch and filing papers against him in the court. Few moments later, Suman cried softly as her husband pulled her into the bed, and she could feel her body and her soul being shredded into pieces… just like the order in a quiet corner of the courthouse.
The Word—by Renu Singh
A word is born way before it is written. Writing or typing a word is sharing with others, but it’s actually written when it’s thought of. Every word is a complete structure in itself…a live structure that breathes through the window of its own meaning. While writing, we juggle with the letters to make a word complete. Often we erase or backspace to correct a word. How unfair is it to the word itself? That’s injustice against its existence. While being written, or even thought about, a word has created its own shadow and its own meaning. You can’t over write its existence. Either you over write the entire word, or you leave it the way it is and start with another correct word, which will look awkward of course. So, erase the entire word and write it all over again. Don’t enter the existing territory of the word by replacing a ‘V’ with a ‘W’ to correct the meaning. If you think you made a mistake while brining a word to life, you don’t fix it, you get rid of its physical existence, but letting its shadow live as it is. Go on and write another correct word without tainting the memory of a word that got written wrong with all faults of yours and the modern technology.