By Rhituparna Chakraborty
Lunch was served. Savita heard Sulakshana calling her. ‘Please come and have your lunch. After that you have to get ready as well,’ said Sulakshana. ‘After all it’s your great niece’s wedding today. You cannot afford to get late. Can you?’, Sulakshana continued with a smile. Sulakshana was Saurav’s wife. Saurav was Savita’s nephew, that is, her elder brother’s son. Savita’s elder brother Prabin was busy talking to the priest while sipping tea in the front yard. Savita beamed with happiness. She wanted to see Sunaina, her doll, her great niece as a bride. The entire household was busy...
Savita went ahead to the pandal where all the guests were seated. She found a chair beside one of the groom’s relatives. Everyone was busy talking. Savita just sat there smiling, fixing her dress and ensuring the scarf covering her head does not come off. The silk mekhela chadar was slippery, so she was worried. Just then one of the waiters came and invited her and all the people sitting beside her to accompany him to the dining hall, as food was served. Savita got up with the rest of them and went to the dining hall.
She found a nice comfortable place to sit. The waiters came and started serving food to everyone out there. The guy who was serving ‘hilsa fish’ in mustard sauce seemed to be in demand. He served Savita one slice of fish. Savita tasted a bit and said, ‘Can you give me one more piece please. It’s delicious.’ The waiter smiled and said, ‘Sure, why not?’. After sometime, some boys came to serve mutton curry and ‘Rohu Fish’ curry. Savita took 4 servings of mutton curry. The taste was ambrosial. With every morsel of mutton , she bit a slice of raw onion. She loved every bit of the taste. Same was the case with the fish curry. Savita relished every crumb of it. She then went to the dessert counter. There were two counters. There was an ice cream corner and then there was a rice pudding corner. Today being Thursday, many people avoided non veg food. Some people say ice cream contains eggs, hence most of the folks did not have ice cream. Savita grabbed a bowl of ice cream and then two more and savored every spoon of strawberry and vanilla icecream. She then went out of the dining room and walked up to her room. Everyone was busy at the wedding, so she did not disturb anyone.
She went inside her room and closed the door. She took off all the accessories and put them properly in the closet. She changed into her old chadar mekhela and folded the new chadar mekhela and put it perfectly in the closet. She then put the golden slippers befittingly at the rack below. Now no one would realize that things were touched in this closet. After all it was Sulakshana’s closet. She opened her own closet. She was tired of seeing the plain white chadar mekhelas there. She had been wearing that white colour for 63 years now. She looked at herself in the mirror. She took off the scarf from her head. She had short pixie cut hair. She could see the red vermillion dot on her forehead. She went to the washroom and washed that dot thoroughly. She came back and sat on her bed. She was tired. Her whole life flashed in front of her. She was just 7 years old, when she was married off to a guy 28 years senior to her. Once she hit puberty, the groom would come and take her to his home. Till then, she could stay at her mom’s home. When she was 8 years old, one fine day, when she was playing hopscotch with her cousins, there was a hue and cry in the family. Some relatives came and told her that she had to take a bath. Before bath, some people had chopped off her hair and after bath she was made to wear a white pair of chadar mekhela. She did know what had happened. When it was time for lunch, she was given only fruits and at night, she was given boiled rice and lentil soup. When she asked her mother what had happened. Her mother had cried bitterly and had told her ‘You have become a widow my child. Your husband had a tuberculosis attack and he died at the hospital.’ Some aunties from the neighborhood had hugged her tight and had said, ‘from today, you will never touch colors or wear colorful clothes. You must not eat any spicy and non vegetarian food which includes onions, garlic, fish, mutton, eggs, chicken and so on and so forth. You must not run around and play around. You have to be mature now. Things are tough, but we know you are strong.’ From that day, Savita had stayed in this home leading a life devoid of colors and life. All her brothers and sisters got married. She stayed in this ancestral home with her brother and his family. Today, she was exhausted. In all these 63 years, she longed to eat fish, she longed to go out and enjoy life, she longed to wear jewelry, she longed to play with colors. When she was 23, she had fallen in love with a boy in the neighborhood. But she was a widow and he could not see her. She could not eat non-veg food and onions and garlic because that might make her sexually active. How can widow have that need?
Today she was satiated. She was happy. She lied down on the bed in her white attire and pulled the bed sheet and went off to sleep. In the morning, Sulakshana, Sunaina, and Saurav kept on banging the door of her room. They had to break it open. Savita had left the world. Her dead body had a peaceful smile, a smile which no one had seen in the past.