Shehnaz Begum was the last child of her poor old parents. She had six elder brothers and sisters. Her parents had got all of them married.
The father had lately been not keeping in good health. He wanted his darling daughter married off to a suitable groom before his death. Shehnaz was barely fourteen years old. But the parents were in a hurry to get her married.
Someone told the father about a childless and often sick old rich man who wished to marry a girl. The father saw no harm in his daughter marrying that old man. After all, he was a rich man. A poor man’s daughter should enjoy the life of rich people, the father thought.
Thus, Shehnaz was married to the old man even before she was fifteen. The old husband Anisudden fulfilled his young bride’s every wish. But because of illness he could not take her out.
Shehnaz liked to wear high heel sandals. So, whenever she walked around the house her sandals made clattering noise, tonk-tonk-tonk. The old man Anisudden knew where Shehnaz was and what she could be doing by that tonk-tonk sound.
Shehnaz took great care of her old and sick husband. She was always feeding him milk or some medicine. Her caring brought Anisuddin back to health gradually. The couple often praised the obedience of their servants and the maids.
Anisudden didn't like his servants too much talking and back-slapping among themselves. And he disapproved of their becoming friendly with other neighborhood servants. So, the servants kept themselves quietly busy in their household duties. Shehnaz was all praise for their cook. He cooked very tasty dishes and served food at time. She
thought that no other cook could be so dutiful and loyal.
Now having recovered from the illness old Anisudden had started going. he told Shehnaz ‘You take so loving care of me…darling. Tomorrow, I will take you out to show you the most beautiful building of this city. It belongs to my friend Nawab Saheb."
It delighted Shehnaz. Old Anisudden went out to make preparations for their next day’s outing. But unfortunately they were not fated to go on that planned outing. Shehnaz received the news of her husband suddenly suffering a stroke and passing away. She was shocked.
After the death of the husband, Shehnaz became sad, lonely and quiet. She had only done nursing her husband and managing the domestic servants all her married life. She couldn't even think of marrying again. The months and years went by. The parents of
Shehnaz wanted her to get married. But she would not listen.
She lived in that big mansion like a symbol of sadness. But she was happy on one account that the servants took good care of her. The cook prepared tasty dishes for her.
Thus the life was passing by. One day… Snehnaz twisted her ankle while coming down the stairs. Her ankle got sprained. She could not move about.
The physician was called. He advised her total rest till her foot healed. And Shehnaz was asked not to wear high heel sandals in future. The physician said that she must use soft velvet slippers.
Shehnaz remained bed ridden. She was served food on her bed. The maids applied balm on the sprained ankle. It took a week for the sprain to go away. She could walk slowly.
As advised, she began wearing velvet slippers. Now, she didn't make tonk-tonk sound while moving around. One afternoon when she went to the kitchen she was surprised to find her cook gossiping with a neighborhood servant.
Shehnaz took cover to watch their act. She saw the other servant receive some quantity of sugar and butter from her cook. Now she knew why they usually ran out of provisions. It made Shehnaz angry and sad. All those years she had been thinking that the cook was honest and loyal.
The truth troubled Shehnaz. One day she felt like taking a stroll in the courtyard. As she was coming out she heard some sounds coming from a room. She peeped in through a hole. What she saw made her heart stop beating. She could not believe her eyes. A servant wearing her late husband’s costly dress was sitting on a chair. A maid wearing the dress of Shehnaz was caressing the hair of the servant.
In a state of shock Shehnaz reached to her bed and sat down. She again came out wearing her high heel sandals, a short time later, making familiar tonk-tonk sounds. This time, she found all the servants busy in their chores.
Now she understood the game of the servants. Due to the velvet slippers the servants couldn’t know her arrival. Behind her back they had been cheating her.
Thereafter, she became short tempered and often rebuked the cook and the servants. She felt sick of everything. She didn’t t want to sack the servants and make them her enemies.
And she couldn't understand how to deal with those dishonest people. New servants could not be trusted right away.
Finally, she decided to sell the house. She made a deal with a big landlord and sold the mansion to him. She went away to a far off village to live a peaceful life.