Date: 25th October 2015.
Time: 2:15 p.m IST
Place: My home at Kasba, Kolkata
“Have you booked the cab?” my dad enquired in a stern voice.
“No dad, I am trying.”
“Do it fast. You are always late. You have not even put on your dress.”
“Yes dad, let me first book the cab. I will dress up after that.”
“Fast, you mother has worn a saree already. Don’t miss your flight this time.”
“Done. The cab is coming. Can you please receive the call when I am getting dressed up?”
“Yeah, please go.”
Mom came out of her bedroom saying, “This guy is late as usual.”
I dressed up in a light green T-shirt with white stripes and blue jeans. “I am ready”, I declared as I saw dad talking on phone giving directions to someone. This must be the driver.
“Today is Durga idol immersion. There might be huge procession”, my mom said.
“Yes mom, let me bring my bag.”
“The cab has entered our complex. Take care of yourself son and don’t think so much about all of these.”
“Yes mom, you too take care of your health. Don’t think too much. We have done all right things. I have nothing to worry about.”
“Take care of yourself son”, said my dad, caressing my shoulders. His voice broke in between and his face turned sombre.
I have never seen my dad crying. I didn’t want him to cry at the same time I didn’t want him to loose heart. I patted his back and said, “Dad don’t be weak. Be strong. I am worried about both of you.”
Then we started our journey towards the airport.
Date: 25th October 2015.
Time: 5:11 p.m IST
Place: Kolkata, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport
As I completed my security clearance, I got a call from didi. She asked me not to worry and that things will be ok soon. I asked her to share a common friend’s lawyer contact number. She replied that the contact was not available.
The last I spoke with her was on 15th October 2015. After that, I haven’t received any call from her. Nor did I call her, angry at the way in which she had talked with my parents.
Second by second, 10 days have passed. Will she call, will she not? I was repeating the words among the cacophony of announcements and human talk.
Let me call.
“Hello” in a questioning voice.
I wondered if she has even saved my number on her phone.
“How are you?”
“Haa…. I am good.”
Good, that too in an enthusiastic voice? Staying away from husband whom she had said she loves?
“Good?…” I stammered a bit.
She continued in her same tone which became eventually complaining, “Yes, what can I do? You have left me here for Durga Puja. I spent my Puja all alone.”
“Leave it. I think your health is back to normal. I had called you because I waited for your call till the last moment but you haven’t called. Didn’t you knew that we are both flying out to Bangalore today?”, I said.
“Yes, but you have not done your duty as my husband”, she complained again as usual.
I interrupted for some useful talk within whatever time is left, “Why didn’t you call even in the last minute?”
“After what happened on that day,”…. A momentous eerie silence at her end, “I felt very bad that your dad wanted me to sign that paper.”
I wanted to interrupt but thought it would be wiser for her to talk.
She continued, “I might have flaws but tell me one thing. Did I do anything for which I have to sign that paper?”
I couldn’t help but interrupt, “You should have seen the date on the paper. It has the things you did on Dwiragaman night.”
She said, “Yes, but I have been there with you and your parents. Have I done anything unusual or have I repeated anything like this in Bangalore? Why to bring that paper again?”
“No, you haven’t repeated them again. But it is just for you to remember, not to do those things again.”
“No, I don’t think that is justified. And I expected that you will at least call me once after the incident. You didn’t even call to know the truth. I am married to you. What kind of responsibility you have?”
“If I haven’t called, what stopped you from calling me?”
“Yes, but you are my husband. You should have called me once.”
“I was waiting for your call whole of Friday. For once, I thought, you probably haven’t gone to your home. When I called mom in the afternoon, all she said you have gone and called them up. I expected you to at least call me. I got to know about the things when I called home in the night at about 10.30 p.m. Till that point, I thought you might be too happy to meet your folks, so much so that you forgot me. What did you do in the 12 hours after you left my home? Couldn’t you even inform that I am leaving?”
“That would have been like I am protesting.”
“No, it is not. What stopped you from informing at least that you have reached? And I was waiting like a fool for at least one message!”
“When my mamaji called you, you told him about my etiquettes? Why did you talk badly with him? Why did you talk badly with my mother? You have left me alone in this house for full Puja time.”
“Even I was alone in Puja. I had told you earlier that we will have fun if you stay here in Puja vacations. Your mamaji called when I was driving. There was so much loud noise that I couldn’t hear properly. I raised my voice to talk to him. I did not talk badly. Not make up things.”
“You talked in an inappropriate way with him.”
“No, I did not. And I am right about your manners. Why did you argue and leave my house after misbehaving with my parents? You could have talked nicely. What have we not given you, love and pleasure till what we can afford? What else do you want? And, dad had already told your mom that our doors are open for you. You can come if you want. Why you didn’t come?”
“I did not use offensive words for your parents. I felt so let down when I saw that paper. I was just talking to them.”
“There is a big difference between shouting and talking. In-law’s place is always assumed as bad place by daughter-in-laws. On the other hand, my parents always treated you as their daughter. Still you were abusive to them? You will accuse us to what extent? First you accused me of marrying you because I am sexually weak. Now you accuse my parents of treating you badly. I wouldn’t doubt if you are proved wrong even the second time. Tell me why didn’t you return back when my dad told to your mom that you can come whenever you want.”
“Did you tell that to me?”
“Your mom knew it. She must have told you. You must have known everything from her. Then why you didn’t come?”
“How could I come? You guys were visiting Puja pandals.”
“We didn’t visit any puja pandals. We visited our family’s puja.”
I continued, “Anyway, I thought you would call me at least now since the flight time was approaching, but you didn’t. They are asking me to switch off the phone. Bye.”
I switched off the phone, put on my seat belt. I noticed that my co-passengers might have overheard me. I don’t mind though. The air-hostesses have taken their positions explaining the safety instructions. I just thought I would sleep as usual. But this journey was different. I did not get sleep, I could not have slept.
She has been accusing me since we got married. She will accuse me in future too, for no fault of mine. I didn’t leave her at her paternal home, forget about leaving her alone. She was the one who told she will never come back. That was her decision, not mine. She accuses me of not talking responsibility as a husband. What is her responsibility as a wife? The list of her double standards doesn’t even end here. She pointed finger at my father and shouted to both my parents. And she blames me for disrespecting her mama and mother? In fact, she had not called me even once after getting off the train.
I saw the couple in front of me, supporting their heads over one another. I thought I would cry and I stopped. The aeroplane engines gushed the air with so much pressure that I could almost feel them. I saw outside the window, pressing my face across the pane. The airport terminal was looking marvelous, twinkling like a Diwali night. I was held back by force, and the buildings, grass and runway were moving behind me, gradually small clouds went past me.
I kept looking down the window, to get a glimpse of what is best known as “Sundori Kolkata” (Beautiful Kolkata). The city was looking like small pieces of gold and diamond thrown around. The sky was getting dark and I kept on looking till my eyes can take me, into nowhere and oblivion.
I leaned back my seat and made myself comfortable and tried to sleep. I closed my eyes to try to sleep for a while. Lights dimmed by, the music got louder and chit-chatting around me came to naught.
“I just talked with your parents, did not use any offensive language.” Her words kept echoing inside my eardrums. My dad trusted her so much that he wanted to share our back account details with her. It was me who stopped him. Afterall, how can I trust a girl who broke all hell loose to clear her silly doubts, humiliated and mentally harassed me the fourth night after bou bhat? I know my parents very well and I know her very well too. I can tell who is telling the truth.
“I have told Tanmoy babu that we don’t want anything. We don’t want any goods, money, jewellery or property. All we want is a good bahu who will stay as daughter. We want your girl to love my son and stay with us happily.” My dad’s voice kept coming to my mind. Now I could not control water coming out of my eyes.
I leaned my forehead on the front seat, keeping my eyes closed. “Is this too much to ask for?” I asked myself. “We have everything by the grace of god. All we wanted was a little bit more of happiness. Oh Mother goddess, what have you done.” From my childhood, I always wondered why people are called god fearing in English textbooks. Why fear the one who made us? I always loved Durga, as a kid, I called her Mummy whenever I prayed to her, though it is common for people to call her ma (mother). I have kept my faith all along, though I have fought with the almighty many times, complaining about petty issues in life, but I have grown out of them. I have tried to keep my heart warm amid difficult situations in the past. I thought there is something good in this world**.
“Does she even like me? If I put all bad words told to me by other people in one room, it could not match her criticism in the last three months. What did I or my parents do to deserve this mummy? Are trust and love so valueless?”
A drop of water fell on the jeans. A moment later, I could feel its warmth on my right thigh. Some more flowed. I have an abundance of them now.
*mama is Maternal uncle and ji is used respectfully to mean the same.
*Dwiragaman is a Hindu marriage practice i.e. 2 nights after the reception when newly weds go to the wife’s parent’s place. They have to stay there for 2 nights, complete some formalities and come back.
*Durga is a female deity in Hinduism, often associated with being the mother of all beings.
*Puja is prayer
* bou bhat is the reception 2 days after marriage ceremony.
*bahu is your son’s wife or daughter in law.
**From The Two Towers (Lord of The Rings)