info@tellmeyourstory.in
Biography of a Worthless Woman

About Kathakali Mukherjee

Kathakali Mukherjee, born 1971, was a student of Sanskrit – Epigraphy and ancient Indian history. But her interest in language and literary studies led her learning another couple of European languages as well.
She worked for media libraries in Kolkata; also spent several years as technical translator, process and team manager with German and Indian software companies in Bangalore. Currently staying in Gurugram or Kolkata, she is engaged with reading and writing.
Apart from experimenting with short stories, she works on literary translation of fable and fairy tales as well as historical fictions. She is exploring the treasure trove left by esteemed Bengali and German authors between 18th-19th centuries these days.
She writes poems during her busy days when time does not permit her to sit at the writing desk.
Her blog: https://medium.com/@KathakaliM and https://www.indiblogger.in/kathakalim
Her self-published works:
"You and me" is a collection of poems https://www.amazon.in/dp/B01NCSMHK9/
And her effort of translating a selection of articles from Lokrahasya “Secrets of the Humankind – Satiric Articles by Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay,”: https://pothi.com/pothi/book/ebook-kathakali-mukherjee-secrets-humankind

Visit My Website
View All Stories

Prologue :

I was rummaging through the corpses. They died years back – now scattered on my reading desk in the form of inland letters. I saw one uncle who used to make beautiful sketches in all his letters, a friend who had a dream to become a linguist but finished his race as bank clerk – all lying powerless. The smell of the blood, sweat and tears of the writers smeared in their handwritten lines were still fresh in the folds of those old letters. Senders trusted me so much that they did not hesitate opening the innermost compartments of their lives before me. My trembling hand could not resist touching one of them – marked as “confidential” – our only way of pleading with parents those days so they do not open those out of curiosity.

Part 1.

I unfolded Veena, the girl who is lost from my life some twenty-five years back. I spent hours reflecting why she came into my life, what was the significance of her existence in this world that did not give her a chance to grow. Never found the answer. Only thing I realized is that her fate butchered her mercilessly – never leaving an inch space for her so that she could get up again, live a life like other “normal” people.

The first phase of the letter says, “I had a choice when I went with him.”

Did she? I knew she was looking for the easiest way out of her troubles – troubles which boys and girls born in educated Bengali lower middle class houses faced in our cosmopolitan city, still carrying the burden of old British empire. All of them lived with their families, usually once obedient servants of the fair race, hence committed to raise their children according to morals learnt from the book of behavioural sciences the rulers once imposed. An unfriendly living condition, usually in the pigeon–hole sized dwelling in dingy lanes behind the city’s high-rises dwarfed those children’s choices from their early childhood. Her father didn’t earn enough to fulfil her wish to attend music or dance classes like many of our classmates; neither had she abundant supply of books or paintbrushes. Her family was unhappy with her results in exams. Her mother’s monotonous shrill voice expressed her dissatisfaction with her daughter every morning, waking up the neighbours along with Veena.

She became almost a revolt while in eighth standard. Her first expression of discontent was revealed in the selection of her dresses. The fourteen year old had already developed a sculpture like curved body. She started wearing clothes which demonstrated her curves perfectly. Her choice caught attention of the neighbourhood uncles and aunties and raised eyebrows of almost everyone in the known circle. Middle class society didn’t allow their girls to reveal so much those days – at least not around the marriageable age when suitable boys won the right to measure the bodily charm of their potential bride. Her haste to prove her nupital potentials made the parents of most of our classmates to restrict their own children from talking to her. She took resort in making friends with boys who were equally rebellious like her.

Her parents were ashamed of their daughter’s weird preference – so ashamed that both of them stopped talking to her. How else could weak parents treat their adamant daughter? My parents didn’t mind my communication with friends through letters – probable reason why she continued sending long mails to me. Even after we left school, as I went to a different city to study a different subject, she didn’t stop. Till five long years after we met last, she wrote in her letter, “I can talk to you about everything in my life because you are the only one who has no problem hearing such ‘unimaginable’ things from a fallen girl. Yes, I am fallen – with pride!”

Part 2

I was least interested in the love life of anyone but those inside books. She too avoided discussing with me about her boyfriends following the unwritten norm I have set. What I found interesting in her was her theatrical skill. She proved herself to be a good performer in all our school fests – became a future Shabana Azmi in my imagination. I knew she got herself involved with a theatre group after finishing graduation, earned little fame too. How could an artist with acting skill “fall”?

I felt curious and moved to next sentence, “I didn’t tell you that I married two years back. I married because it was the easiest way out of all my troubles. You know Rupam – it’s him. The relationship with him became nauseating after first couple of years. I don’t want to bother you by describing how lovemaking with such a mediocre guy disgusts. You will not understand. I wanted to escape from him and began dating Arun, another guy of our theatre group. It was almost an official engagement with him since even our families met each other and accepted the alliance.”

“Rupam was insanely in love with me but that’s it. He didn’t even find a job in Kolkata; left for Patna. I was relieved. You know what? My relationship with Arun was great till I realized he was too possessive. He didn’t want me to talk to any other guy. A fight broke soon after I met Rupam again. It was not possible for me to avoid my ex once he had come to meet me. Believe me, I didn’t want to get him back but he was too stubborn. He used his skill of emotional blackmailing. I didn’t know he met Arun too and somehow convinced him not to marry me.

I couldn’t go back to the theatre group. Everyone there knew that I had ditched Arun. My parents were furious at me – My mother had cancer – parents were in a hurry to get rid of me. I am not even well-qualified to get a job. Most importantly I couldn’t gather the courage to stand up to myself. What else I could do but marrying Rupam? But wait; don’t think a woman’s life ends with marriage. I was trying to be a good wife, taking care of Rupam and my in-laws; at the same time I have been unfaithful. Emotionally I couldn’t be with Rupam. There have been many guys who came in and went out of my life. I enjoyed my intimate moments with all of them – just to end within couple of weeks. Now I don’t even care about feeling guilty. Rupam left me.

I will never become a mother…for whatever physical fault I have…”

Twenty seven years back, my vision blurred after this line. I was shocked, felt helpless as I believed in my immense power of helping people out of their troubles those days. As I was going through these words yesterday, they didn’t hurt me as severely as before. I remembered I had received another ten twelve letters from Veena after that. I didn’t know how to reply – what to write. I went silent. She couldn’t start a different life. Every letter from her carried the story of her going through irreversible transformations. She stopped writing after one year or so. Probably our destinies became too different to meet at a junction ever again. After several years I came to know from some old classmates that, she had left for Hyderabad with one of her boyfriends – never came back to Kolkata – none knew where she was.

Inland letters around me suddenly became alive; all chuckling to me. “Which one of us will you select next? What made you imagine us to be corpses? It is you who kept us alive, so we are. We will always pretend to be dead, albeit come alive whenever you touch any of us. Doesn’t it sound magical?”

 

I could not reply; sat dumbfounded encircled by the pile of handwritten inland letters those were the witnesses of a different era.

I was rummaging through the corpses. They died years back – now scattered on my reading desk in the form of inland letters. I saw one uncle who used to make beautiful sketches in all his letters, a friend who had a dream to become a linguist but finished his race as bank clerk – all lying powerless. The smell of the blood, sweat and tears of the writers smeared in their handwritten lines were still fresh in the folds of those old letters. Senders trusted me so much that they did not hesitate opening the innermost compartments of their lives before me. My trembling hand could not resist touching one of them – marked as “confidential” – our only way of pleading with parents those days so they do not open those out of curiosity.

I unfolded Veena, the girl who was lost from my life some twenty-five years back. I spent hours reflecting why she came into my life, what was the significance of her existence in this world that did not give her a chance to grow. Never found the answer. Only thing I realized is that her fate butchered her mercilessly – never leaving an inch space for her so that she could get up again, live a life like other “normal” people.

The first phase of the letter says, “I had a choice when I went with him.”

Did she? I knew she was looking for the easiest way out of her troubles – troubles which boys and girls born in educated Bengali lower middle class houses faced in our cosmopolitan city, still carrying the burden of old British empire. All of them lived with their families, usually once obedient servants of the fair race, hence committed to raise their children according to morals learnt from the book of behavioural sciences the rulers once imposed. An unfriendly living condition, usually in the pigeon–hole sized dwelling in dingy lanes behind the city’s high-rises dwarfed those children’s choices from their early childhood. Her father didn’t earn enough to fulfil her wish to attend music or dance classes like many of our classmates; neither had she abundant supply of books or paintbrushes. Her family was unhappy with her results in exams. Her mother’s monotonous shrill voice expressed her dissatisfaction with her daughter every morning, waking up the neighbours along with Veena.

She became almost a revolt while in eighth standard. Her first expression of discontent was revealed in the selection of her dresses. The fourteen year old had already developed a sculpture like curved body. She started wearing clothes which demonstrated her curves perfectly. Her choice caught attention of the neighbourhood uncles and aunties and raised eyebrows of almost everyone in the known circle. Middle class society didn’t allow their girls to reveal so much those days – at least not around the marriageable age when suitable boys won the right to measure the bodily charm of their potential bride. Her haste to prove her nupital potentials made the parents of most of our classmates to restrict their own children from talking to her. She took resort in making friends with boys who were equally rebellious like her.

Her parents were ashamed of their daughter’s weird preference – so ashamed that both of them stopped talking to her. How else could weak parents treat their adamant daughter? My parents didn’t mind my communication with friends through letters – probable reason why she continued sending long mails to me. Even after we left school, as I went to a different city to study a different subject, she didn’t stop. Till five long years after we met last, she wrote in her letter, “I can talk to you about everything in my life because you are the only one who has no problem hearing such ‘unimaginable’ things from a fallen girl. Yes, I am fallen – with pride!”

To Be Continued in Part II…

I was least interested in the love life of anyone but those inside books. She too avoided discussing with me about her boyfriends following the unwritten norm I have set. What I found interesting in her was her theatrical skill. She proved herself to be a good performer in all our school festivals – became a future Shabana Azmi in my imagination. I knew she got herself involved with a theatre group after finishing graduation, earned little fame too. How could an artist with acting skills “fall”?

I felt curious and moved to next sentence, “I didn’t tell you that I married two years back. I married because it was the easiest way out of all my troubles. You know Rupam – it’s him. The relationship with him became nauseating after first couple of years. I don’t want to bother you by describing how lovemaking with such a mediocre guy disgusts. You will not understand. I wanted to escape from him and began dating Arun, another guy of our theatre group. It was almost an official engagement with him since even our families met each other and accepted the alliance.”

“Rupam was insanely in love with me but that’s it. He didn’t even find a job in Kolkata; left for Patna. I was relieved. You know what? My relationship with Arun was great till I realized he was too possessive. He didn’t want me to talk to any other guy. A fight broke soon after I met Rupam again. It was not possible for me to avoid my ex once he had come to meet me. Believe me, I didn’t want to get him back but he was too stubborn. He used his skill of emotional blackmailing. I didn’t know he met Arun too and somehow convinced him not to marry me.

I couldn’t go back to the theatre group. Everyone there knew that I had ditched Arun. My parents were furious at me – My mother had cancer – parents were in a hurry to get rid of me. I am not even well-qualified to get a job. Most importantly I couldn’t gather the courage to stand up to myself. What else I could do but marrying Rupam? But wait; don’t think a woman’s life ends with marriage. I was trying to be a good wife, taking care of Rupam and my in-laws; at the same time I have been unfaithful. Emotionally I couldn’t be with Rupam. There have been many guys who came in and went out of my life. I enjoyed my intimate moments with all of them – just to end within couple of weeks. Now I don’t even care about feeling guilty. Rupam left me.

I will never become a mother…for whatever physical fault I have…”

Twenty seven years back, my vision blurred after this line. I was shocked, felt helpless as I believed in my immense power of helping people out of their troubles those days. As I was going through these words yesterday, they didn’t hurt me as severely as before. I remembered I had received another ten twelve letters from Veena after that. I didn’t know how to reply – what to write. I went silent. She couldn’t start a different life. Every letter from her carried the story of her going through irreversible transformations. She stopped writing after one year or so. Probably our destinies became too different to meet at a junction ever again. After several years I came to know from some old classmates that, she had left for Hyderabad with one of her boyfriends – never came back to Kolkata – none knew where she was.

Inland letters around me suddenly became alive; all chuckling to me. “Which one of us will you select next? What made you imagine us to be corpses? It is you who kept us alive, so we are. We will always pretend to be dead, albeit come alive whenever you touch any of us. Doesn’t it sound magical?”

 

I could not reply; sat dumbfounded encircled by the pile of handwritten inland letters those were the witnesses of a different era.

4 Likes
770 Views

You may also like

Leave A Comment

Please enter your name. Please enter an valid email address. Please enter message.