Chandannagore. A small town beside the Hoogly. A former French colony. It is the month of October. Jagadhatri puja is being celebrated with great pomp and splendour. But lurking behind the celebrations, are some warring hearts trying their best to keep their displeasure under wraps.
A neelam, the family jewel has gone missing. What could be a more inauspicious thing to happen! It was owned by Nilambari and she kept an eagle’s eye on it. Never parted from it, no one was allowed to go near it.
Nilambari, the grandmother of the family had dreamt about the neelam. Miraculously she found it in her temple, near the shrine, next morning. A divine gift! No one knows where it came from. Since then, the jewel is believed to have brought good luck to the family.
Now that it has gone missing, the family is deeply agitated and worried. Something terrible is about to follow. Their brains running out of a solution to this mess, they are blaming the newly wed bride for this loss. Isn’t the bride supposed to bring good luck? How should one react when her entry begins with such a crucial loss?
Sritama, the bride is flustered no less, unable to figure what she can do to put things right. When everyone is busy with the Jagadhatri puja celebrations, she breaks down in the lonely corner of her room. The drums and conch of the Jagadhatri drown the groans of her wails.
An old caretaker of the house finds her, when he comes to clean. “Don’t worry about the neelam”, she is told. “I am an old servant of this house. The neelam has been taken by none other but the grandmother herself.” She pointed at a handmade photograph on the wall. “These days the brothers have started fighting on the property. They want the estate divided. And they had been fighting over their right to own the neelam too. They are planning to sell it and divide the money, or break the jewel itself! The old woman still lives within the crevices of this house. She must have taken it away. Else no one has the power to steal the neelam. Whoever tried earlier has faced terrible misfortune. The family knows that.”
“Then why should they blame me?” The bride asks. Having married her childhood sweetheart, she wasn’t expecting to be treated so vainly by his family. Her husband has surprised her with his silence. So weak are men! They can shout and fight, but they can’t protest.
“Because being the bride to the eldest son, you were to inherit it.” The cleaner cut through her thoughts. “But trust me, I have seen enough since ages and I can tell you, the neelam has been hidden by the grandmother. She will give it to the one who has the power to keep the estate together.”
Soon, Sritama is called outside. She is asked to sign certain papers. She gets to know that the grandmother had willed her estate to be under the jurisdiction of her eldest grandson and his wife. She looks at her husband and understands, he is under tremendous pressure to sign, though he doesn’t want to. He seems defeated.
She is given a pen. But it won’t work. Everyone is irritated and make no attempts to hide the same. Sritama steps out to come back with a pen. She opens the huge mahogany almirah in her room, unzips her purse and pulls out a pen, when something shines.
She pours the contents of the purse on the bed. The round stone rolls for a distance on the velvet cover of the bed and stops, almost looking at her!
Shocked, she looks around, unable to fathom how on earth could this be here? What would people think? Her God knows that she didn’t steal it. And then, she stops for a moment to take a deep breath. The caretaker’s voice rings through her ears. “She will give it to the one who has the power to keep the estate together.”
Back to the hall, she walks in calmly. She looks around at the gathering and declares that she and her husband wouldn’t want the estate divided. She will not sign! The in-laws are stunned by the audacity of the new bride. They are angry and devastated, but they can’t abuse her. The cold in her tone isn’t something they have heard for the first time. It reminds them of another voice. The voice that you can disagree to, but can’t go against. The voice of Nilambari!
Sritama looks at her husband standing in the corner, astonished. He smiles at her in gratitude. Back to her room, she looks up at the wall, at the photograph of the grandmother. Some faces are strict, but their eyes are affectionate. Nilambari wouldn’t show love. Only fondness and pleasure that reflected through unexpected gestures! The caretaker did initiate the bride about that too.