The bride of the Chowdhurys….
The huge mansion of North Kolkata,
32 Sarat Lane of sixties….
Her lips were so pink, her vermilion so red,
Her kohl so black, her hair curled to her waist….
Indeed like deities.
Her eyes were works of an immortal artisan,
Lotus petalled and black;
Her bangles and her anklets jingled everywhere she went …
She barely was a girl but turned to a bride,
Her double aged husband didn’t like her random smiles.
She was meant to be within the four walls,
There was just a small window in her room which overlooked the Gulmohar
And beneath it she heard her peers playing and calling each other,
‘Champa’, ‘Pari’ ‘Bonna’, ‘Mohor’…
These names took her down the memory lanes…
When by the rail tracks she trailed in skirt with her peers, the bullock carts….
The village priest had named her ‘Durga’
And foresaid that she will be a mistress one day.
Her father kept her protected but the harvest was not good for three years
And the lord had bartered the loan for his daughter.
She had to leave her toys behind her…
She had just entered into her womanhood,
Her mother still helped clean her.
She was lost in the mansion, she turned quiet
Only her anklets spoke now proclaiming aloud her confines…
But there was a music teacher of the household whose smiles allured her
And whose ragas set free the youth within her…
They met in darkness and in the light of the night lamps
Underneath the stairs.
He cautioned her of their dark fate,
Said he was only a minion, a servant.
He neither had money nor power.
Her lord every night devoured her and she cried in agony.
He told her that he owned her
And made amends for her pains …
Gifting her ornaments and drapes to play on long noons of winter.
She had turned seventeen, it was over three years
That she was married and the village women even said
She was sterile as yet she hadn’t beget a son to the mansion.
Many years had passed and many winters.
The nature turned golden with autumn and fields ochre;
The sky azure blue and fields with kans grass
Like white fleecy clouds swayed everywhere.
The artisans arrived from far, the scaffoldings, the pandals,
The beat of hammers by night and day began.
In the balcony of the adjoining room by the terrace….
She stood for hours counting the hours
Of the coming of her lover.
She hadn’t met her parents for years.
She cried believing they had forgotten her.
Her loneliness, emptiness, loss of childhood mates,
Her friends, her toys, her village,
The confines, the tradition of the honoured house
Clasped her legs, her hands and choked her throat
Often in these empty hours.
She waited for the coming of the deity…
The drums, the smell of the paint, the earthen lamps,
The newness of the curtains, the carpets
At least at moments lulled her.
The brush had done her strokes,
The deity was ready to be worshipped adorned on her tiger.
When there was the sound of drums and the conch shells,
The ringing of worship bells,
Durga draped in saree bordered in red
Could see her bulges defining the seed in her womb;
She too had just realised the love of her lover…
And when she was still lost in her image…..
Her maid came running to break the news,
“Rani ma! Teacher sir is no more!
He was found on the tracks… the train rolled over”.
It was Navami, the day of the festival before Dusshera…
Durga was drowning, her mind dizzying..
And she could see her lover calling her with extended arms.
She remembered those pills given by the local quack
That smelt strange but assured peace…
And she consumed them one by one with water.
She locked her room and again, looked at herself in the mirror….
The zardosi was coiling around her and the jewels stifling…
She undraped herself and let the gold clatter on the floor
And prick her toes as she in a trance even undid the pins of her hair
And let it cover her….
The medici started its work,
She felt she was soaring, gliding in the air,
She could feel his arms round her,
Hear him perspire as he embraced her and smelt her near….
She wailed, she laughed, she had finally learnt to be the lord of her life,
Bartered her liberty with the life that confined her…
Next day was Dusshera,
The deity Durga was dressed to be immersed
And a pyre lit to cremate the other…..
One went to her heavenly abode
And the other transpired to be united with her lover.