Suwa Bai was the only daughter of Kishorimal amongst her four brothers. As the children grew up Kishorimal found a bridegroom for Suwa Bai and wives for his sons. All the children were happily married and he was at peace. Then Kishorimal passed away leaving behind huge agriculture lands for his sons and few old ornaments for Suwa Bai. Sukkhi Bai, his wife lived few days in grief and died soon after his demise.
Suwa Bai lived with her husband and two children in Balesar, a small village in Rajasthan. Her husband Pukraj was a farmer with a small plot. They were a content family. Until that year though the monsoon didn’t fail, the crops were good but the prices were low as the demand was less and supply was more. Pukraj sold the grains at low prices and mortaged his land. The family was going through a financial crisis. The next year, the debts increased till Suwa Bai sold her jewelry and Pukraj his land. Pukraj toiled on Zamindar’s land and Suwa Bai went to Jodhpur city as a street Hawker. Every morning she left Balesar and walked to Jodhpur selling wood and reached before sunset to her dinghy hut.
One day, Bastimal, Suwa Bai’s eldest brother had come to pick her up. His wife Laxmi had delivered a baby boy. So there was a big ceremony and all relatives and villagers were invited. Suwa Bai was invited too. She was so happy that she immediately left for her brother’s house leaving her husband and children behind. She told them that she will send word, an invitation to them. She asked them to join her later.
As soon as she reached Bastimal’s house, Suwa Bai was showed the kitchen. For a whole day she toiled and cooked delicacies for the guests. She made laapsi, kheer, puri, gatta aloo mutter Etc. Her sisters in laws, brothers continued entertaining the guests while she toiled in the kitchen. It was half past five when all the guests left. Suwa Bai was not even asked to eat. She felt upset. But she was far more worried about her hungry children and husband. She was about to leave when Laxmi asked her to cook the evening meals. So she kneaded the dough and filled her ivory bangles with dough so that she could make porridge with it. She was about to leave when Laxmi said – “O’ Suwa Bai, wash your bangles before you leave”. Suwa Bai washed her bangles and tearfully cleared that dough off her bangles.
Suwa Bai reached her hut. It was dark by then. Her children slept waiting for her. Her husband looked at her disappointedly. She left her hut with a pot to fill with left over rice starch. It was dark, all the villagers were sleepy. Her brothers and sister in laws were asleep too. She went near the large wok with rice starch in it. She filled her pot and saw the reflection of the moon. She felt guilty. She thought “All the villagers are asleep. No one can see me. But God is watching me. How can I steal then?” She emptied her pot back and was about to leave when suddenly there was a voice, “Suwa Bai, O’ Suwa Bai”. It was dark and whole village was asleep including her starving children and husband. The voice called her again. She looked here and there. There was no one.
“O Suwa Bai, look here it is me; your Chanda Mama” Suwa Bai looked at the moon and it was talking to her. “I am pleased with your honesty. Inspite of no one watching you, you didn’t steal. Ask me Suwa anything you desire. ” The Moon God said. Suwa Bai looked at the full moon. It was the only light amidst the darkness in the village. She said” I do not know. What do I ask you?” Chanda Mama thought carefully and said, “Suwa, you humans need money to survive and I do not have that. I cannot give you food too. But I have my moon rays to give you. These are very precious to me. You sell them tomorrow on streets of Jodhpur.” and Chanda Mama disappeared behind the clouds.
Suwa Bai had a basket next day with scintillating moon rays in it. It was an amusing sight for onlookers when they saw a young woman calling out in a musical tone “Moon rays! Moon rays, Buy some Moon rays!” People giggled, laughed and mocked at her. But she continued calling “Moon rays! Moon rays!” Little boys on streets threw marbles at her. Young men teased her. Everyone called her mad and some abused her. “Till yesterday, she sold wood, today moon rays. How can anyone sell moon rays?” The crowd murmured.
Udairaj Singh, the King of Marwar strolled in his terrace garden in his palace. When he saw below something shone in a street hawker’s basket. The king asked his guards to let her inside the palace. He saw the moon rays they shone straight in his face like a diamond or even better. He hadn’t seen anything like this before. He asked her the price. Suwa Bai she said didn’t know. He knew this was priceless. So he opened all seven treasuries and told her to take anything she wants till the sunset.
Misrimal, Suwa Bai’s second brother had come to pick her up. His wife Sumitra had delivered a boy baby. So there was a big ceremony and all relatives and villagers were invited. And he wanted to call her sister to prepare the meals. He searched for the thatched hut across the Banyan tree. But there was no trace of any hut. He called a passerby and asked “O Tau, there was a hut here, where did it go?” “Hut, which hut? This is no more a village now. This is a town. Who are you looking for?” He asked.
Suwa Bai was strolling in her veranda when she saw her brother. She asked her servant to bring him inside. Seeing his sister in a huge bungalow with rich ornaments and rich attire, Misrimal wondered if his sister will ever step in his house. Misrimal told her about the occasion. Suwa Bai was excited and she immediately left for her brother’s house leaving her husband and children behind. She told them that she will send ward an invitation to them. She insisted they come only if all her brothers came with bullock carts and invited with utmost respect. She asked them to join her later wearing their finest clothes.
As soon as she reached Misrimal, all her sister in laws, brothers and other relatives gathered around her like bees. “Suwa Baiji! Sit here on chair”said one. “Suwa Baiji! Please eat Kheer” said another. “Where are Pukrajji and children? Why haven’t they come yet?” said another. They were brought with warmth and grand hospitality ever shown. Suwa Bai then mocked aloud- Eat this kheer, my jewelry. Relish this Laapsi, my velvet ghaghra. What am I without these ornaments? Am I worth only this much?
Copyrights Nikitha Hingad 2015