Melange

The Life of Jelefa

Life

 

 

SHORT STORY

Jelefais a woman who lives in Barpeta district of Assam with her only son Bhuttu. Jelefa belonged to a family of prosperity, well-mannered and educated too. Jelefa was the youngest among seven siblings and so she was the most loved and adored amongst them all. After all her siblings had started their own families, she got married and therein her life of struggle started. She fought against all odds but deprived of any help, her screams went unheard. She was a person full of humour, she never expressed her sorrows to anyone, she sprinkled love and happiness wherever she went.She was a woman, a friend, a grandmother, a mother, an aunt and a sister whom everyone loved dearly. She was my grandmother.

My grandmother Elena use to tell us, “When I was in my lower primary school, I bunked my classes and go under a mango tree which was just behind our home. I used to take my friends along and enjoyed the time, eating berries, snacks, mortons and seasonal fruits.While we enjoyed, my mother often used to see us and she used to run to catch us, but to no avail. I stayed away from home until my father returned back home from office as he never used to let my mother scold or punish me badly.”

Jelefa was about 19 years old when she got married to a man of about 33 years of age, who was a teacher in a lower primary school of a remote village known as Mailkuchi.After her marriage, she shifted to her husband’s house. After two-three weeks, she found that something was wrong with her husband’s behaviour towards her but she consoled herself with positive hopes.But her husband’s bad behaviour continued.Her husband started torturing her gradually, starting from talking rudely to chaining her up. She was punished for very silly mistakes or if she was a little late in obeying his orders. This continued for years and years but Jelefa didn’t let her parents know about it. She thought that everything would turn out fine in the upcoming days but she was left disappointed. Throughout all these struggles, she gave birth to Bhuttu and was quite happy, hoping for a change in her husband’s attitude but that never practically happened.

Bhuttu was gradually growing up and so too wasJelefa’s strength, with the hope of better days.Her husband felt threatened when he saw Jelefa developing mental and emotional strength. He started breaking her confidence.Jelefa was beaten several times in a day, she was blamed of lying even when she was true and finally, he started locking her up, binding her with a chain and putting a lock in it.He feared that she might run away anytime. Jelefa became depressed and remained fear-striken all the time. She lost all her hopes and was just living with the ultimate aim of seeing Bhuttu grow up to be a well-educated person who would rescue her from that hell.

Once, when Bhuttu was two years old, Jelefa was beatenvery badly and as usual, her hands and legs were locked up with a chain one night. Continuously weeping in pain,Jelefabecame unconscious. Bhuttu was taken away and he slept with his father separately.At midnight, around two am, Bhuttu suddenly started crying.Not being able to stop the child from crying, Jelefa’s husband unlocked her in order to breastfeed Bhuttu. As dawn was approaching,Jelefa’s husband left her and Bhuttu unchained and awake, and he slept. After a few minutes, he started snoring.

Hearing his snore,Jelefa instantly thought to herself, “Jelefa run away, save your son’s future and yours too. Run away right now! It’s high time now to do or to die!” Jelefa made up her mind, gathered courage and took the first step on the ground.She very calmly got down from the bed.Bhuttu was asleep, she grabbed him and tied him tightly against her chest.Making no sound, shevery silently opened the door and looked at her husband for the last time.After that, she went off on her way.

Jelefa had overcome all her fears. She knew no roads or where to go but she ran. She ran through the paddy fields, through the jungles, by the ponds, she ran just like a deer runs to save itself from the attack of a cheetah. She fell down, got wounded, but she got up again, saving Bhuttu, and ran again.

After leaving a few villages, she was so tired that she hid behind a cowshed and she rested there for a few minutes. She was so thirsty but couldn’t find any water. Bhuttuwas fear stricken, he was shocked at what was going on; at the same time, he was also thrilled but surprisingly quiet maybe because he was on his mother’s chest! Jelefa was gravely wounded but she didn’t let the wounds bother her courage and strength. Time was very less in her hands and morning was fast approaching.The villagers might recognize her and she wouldn’t be able to move easily.So she got up and started running again.Finally, she reached the river bank. On the other end, lay Barpeta town.

As it was early morning, the fishermen were rowing their boats and Jelefa caught their sight.They were astounded and were looking towards one another,wonderingwhether she was a human being or a ghost, as it is quite abnormal to see a woman with a child by the banks of the river such early in the morning. One of the fisherman came closer andJelefapleaded, “Brother, please take us to the opposite bank. I am so tired. I am here running all the way from Mailkuchi.This is my son. I am married to a man over there who tortures me a lot.” Hearing her speak, the fisherman brought his boat closer to her and let her come aboard and finally took her to the other side of the river.

Jelefa was finally home, conquering every difficulty that had come her way. She made her way to her father’s house and then stayed forever there, looking after her mother and son simultaneously as her mother was also quite old.Jelefa was given the responsibility of nursing her mother.

Bhuttu is now working in Delhi,and provides her with a lot of care and love.He married a very well-mannered girl chosen by his mother. Jelefa, after Bhuttu’s marriage, preferred to stay at Barpeta and often visits her son’s place in Delhi, going all the way alone. She sometimes takes her childhood friend Halima along with her on her trips. She is now an independent woman. She lives a life full of joy, happiness and contentment.

Alma Hussain