I was then in my tenth standard preparing for my selection test. My brother went to spend the weekend with the cousins. I was quite happy that my father’s colleague had not invited me for his sister’s wedding. ” I can at least utilise the time studying on my own and avoid eating oily food and sweets,” I thought to myself.
It was early November in Kolkata and there was a little nip in the air announcing the approach of winter. It was a pleasant night. The sky was clear and full of stars. I settled down on my desk by the side of the window and turned to my Biology book.
Earlier in the evening my friend Betu (Vaswati Sarkar) came home and we prepared notes on evolution of the living world and explanation of Darwin’s theory of the origin of species.
“I would not like to lock the door from outside and take the keys,” said my mother before leaving home for the wedding. “Sure Ma, I am going to study till late in the night and open the door for you when you come back home. Don’t worry!” I answered.
“Don’t open the door to anybody, look through our bedroom window before opening the door. Don’t just open the door when the door-bell rings or somebody knocks,” continued my mother, cautioning me on all possible eventualities. “For any kind of emergency, contact Mrs. Biswas, I have briefed her that you will be alone for quite some time”. The advice sounded like she was going to visit the entire continent and would only come back after a year. In spite of my impatience, I paid attention to all the advice and showed no sign of disapproval. I was bold and was not scared of staying alone. Rather I felt happy.
Today after becoming a mother myself, I can understand the concern that parents have for their children in circumstances like this.
After they left, I studied for well over two hours being the sincere student that I was and then went to the dining room to have my dinner. I knew they had gone to Barrackpore for the wedding – a place far from home, and it would obviously take time to return home. After dinner I had planned to study more and complete my Biology revision as the set goal for that day, so I could move on with another subject on the next day.
The moment I went to the kitchen to keep my empty plates after dinner, the lights went off – the customary power cut which was so very common and so very irritating back in those days. “Luckily this is not summertime,” I thought to myself.
” Mom, you told me so many things except telling me where you kept the torch light,” I muttered with disappointment. Wading and fumbling through the darkness, I ultimately found the torch in their bed-room. There was an emergency light in my parent’s room fitted to the wall but the light was not very bright so I decided to shift to their room to spare me of the trouble of lighting a candle or a glass lantern. There was no desk in my parent’s bed-room so I sat on the bed and started studying. The mild climate and the occasional soothing breeze blowing through the open window gradually made me drowsy and I lay down on the bed and went into a deep slumber without realising it.
I suddenly woke up when I felt two hands shaking me vigorously through the window and heard my mom screaming. Rubbing my sleepy eyes, I woke up to see my parents accompanied by a crowd of people standing at the window and calling for me to open the door.
Our house was like a Bungalow with a garden surrounding it on three sides and my parent’s bedroom window overlooked the garden. Luckily the room was on the ground floor and the bed was by the side of the window that enabled my mom to reach inside with her hands and shake me out of my sleep. Otherwise God forbid, even a fire inside the house would not have woken me up till it was too late. The sleep was as deep as that of “Kumbhakarna”, the mythological character in the epic Ramayana.
It was embarrassing to witness the anxious questioning faces of so many people at that hour. My mom probably woke up the entire neighbourhood while struggling to wake up her daughter.
Cover image is a painting by Aparna Mondal