Maamone

by Geetashree Chatterjee
(New Delhi)

“You still look the same, Maamone”, gushed my aunt. There was an additional quantum of exuberance, a wee bit extra dash of ingratiating admiration in the manner the sentence was uttered, which I, in spite of myself, felt was justified. The aquiline nose, in response, crinkled elegantly and the petal soft lips parted slowly to disclose a row of perfectly moulded teeth. Maamone’s sparkling smile illumined the otherwise dull, grey afternoon which had clouded the room with a plethora of pleasant and unpleasant history playing hide and seek in the shadowed nooks.


We were sitting in the more habitable wing of an otherwise dilapidated mansion which bore silent witness to decades of feudal pomposity and inutile extravaganza. Maamone sitting quietly by the corner of the four poster bed was the quintessence of an era long gone by - an era whose tattered fragments could still be found in parts of the country, though in a state of wilting decay, yet hopelessly holding the fort in a last minute skirmish with modernity. It was rumoured that serious talks were under way with known hoteliers for the crumbling estate. I wondered what would happen to Maamone once the shambles changed hands. Would she be able to retain her quarters? I could not imagine her in any other backdrop. She was so much a part and parcel of the whole withering facade – like a delicate tendril desperately clambering up a ravaged wall.

“Age has taken its toll,” a few mellifluous notes floated in the air. I came back to the present. There was no resentment in the words spoken – just a casual mention of an irrefutable fact. My aunt rushed to oppose vehemently. “No! No! Maamone, when did we last meet? About four or five years back? But I see no change in you.” Maamone’s lips stretched again in that same indulgent smile. She shook her head slightly as though making a mute protest. A lightening revelation struck me. Maamone’s indomitable spirit rose from her almost super natural power of acceptance of the inevitable. Notwithstanding her flawless skin, artistically chiseled features and aristocratic bearing she knew that she could not fight with age for long. It was a useless battle.

My aunt and I had come to pay a visit to Maamone on hearing of her failing health. Maamone was distantly related to my uncle. The proximity of residences had enabled my uncle to always maintain a close and cordial relation with Maamone’s family. Maamone’s husband, Buluda, was one of my uncle’s bosom friends. Buluda had passed away a few years back. Since then my uncle’s visits to the sprawling premises had lessened. But now after so many years the threads of cordiality had once again been picked up and here we were sitting with Maamone reminiscing the olden days.

Maamone’s father-in-law, Shri Brojeshwar Rai, was an austere as well as astute person. He chose his daughter-in-law with much care. Maamone’s radiant beauty dazzled the household, her restrained charm beguiled every heart and above all she was educated and well read. “Deadly combination,” as my uncle would comment whenever Maamone crept into our conversation, “That of beauty and brain,” he would elaborate after a little pause. “To top it all, education bestowed upon her a singularly high self esteem, which made and broke her at the same time” Uncle would conclude with a deep sigh.

Buluda or Billeshwar Rai, Maamone’s husband, was an equally erudite and imposing personality. Tall, handsome, debonair with a hearty winsome laugh, he would always be the centre of attraction amidst any gathering. Buluda’s business necessitated frequent journeys abroad. After a few years of marriage the frequency of trips increased. Gradually the visits became more and more lengthy. It was not known when and how the seeds of suspicion were sown in Maamone’s heart - perhaps during one of these prolonged absences. It was after one of Buluda’s long awaited return that one fine morning an open letter lying carelessly on the sideboard corroborated the misgivings which were tormenting Maamone for quite some time. She read the missive once and wordlessly picked up her personal effects to leave her husband’s room forever never to return again.

Maamone came to occupy the ground floor apartment from then onwards while Buluda continued to stay on the first floor. No amount of pleading on Buluda’s part could change her mind. She could have gone back to her parents but did not want to be an additional burden on the family who were not doing too well either. Her father had retired. Her brother was earning a frugal income from odd jobs which was just about enough to sustain himself and his parents. He had not got married because of financial instability. Maamone did not have the heart to inflict any further mental pain on her aged parents and struggling sibling by returning home for good.

So she withdrew into her shell. A quiet life of philanthropy followed. But she never went back to her husband no, not even when Buluda was on his death bed. She had embraced the austerities of widowhood much before Buluda’s demise and made it a practice to always appear in spotless white in public or otherwise. It was quite obvious that an irreparable rift had disrupted their conjugal harmony. Perhaps the anguish was too intense and the hurt too deep to admit forgiveness. Separation was irrevocable.

“But what was written in that letter?” I had once asked my Uncle. “Nobody till date knows what was written in that piece of paper. Maamone neither spoke about it to anybody nor complained about her misfortunes. She just submitted to her fate and exited with dignity out of a life which was not acceptable to her ethics,” my uncle clarified. It was left to one’s imagination what that epistle might have contained.

A tinkle of laughter broke my reverie. Dusk had fallen. In the interplay of half lights Maamone’s beauty had taken on an ethereal glow. We bade her courteous good bye. She walked out to see us off. I was leaving the city the next day and did not know whether I would ever be able to meet Maamone again. As I crossed the courtyard I looked back for the last time. She stood there leaning against one of the massive pillars of an intricately carved archway. A solitary remembrance of a resplendent yet pathetic past!!

Beauty is never skin deep, I mused. Maamone’s undying radiance germinated from her inner core, her strength of character, her unbending poise in the face of personal injustice and her gracious acceptance of life as it came. Her beauty stemmed from something beyond the tabernacle of flesh and bones. It was the manifestation of her blemish free soul.

Maamone died peacefully in her sleep a few months later. But the grandeur of her imperishable beauty lives on.

The End





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Dec 23, 2011
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Dear Isabelle
by: Geetashree Chatterjee

You need not apologize. Your enthue and interest are my rewards.

Dec 23, 2011
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post script...
by: isabel

My apology, I was carried away with your well written story about this great woman. I thought the story was loosely based on facts and more on fiction.
It's best to leave this beautiful story like this in honor of her and her family.

Happy holidays and God bless,
Isabel

Dec 20, 2011
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Thanks a ton...
by: Geetashree Chatterjee

Mathur Sahab, its a pleasure reading your comment which shows how keenly you've gone through the post. Regards

Dec 20, 2011
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Fabulous
by: Jitendra Mathur

Geeta Ji,

Shubh Sandhya.

I complain that you did not inform me regarding posting of this short story immediately after doing so.

However, better late than never. I have gone through it and you have left it a suspense for the reader to guess as to what was the text of that letter that prompted Mammone to take the decision of shifting her residence. Well, it can be guessed through deductive reasoning. However the accurate answer can be known to the authoress only.

A story of a woman externally beautiful and internally strong. And your pen is no less strong than the inner self of Mammone.

Hearty compliments.

Jitendra

Dec 20, 2011
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Thanks a lot
by: Geetashree Chatterjee

Deeptangshu, for taking out time to read this story.

Dec 19, 2011
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Dear Isabel....
by: Geetashree Chatterjee

Quite overwhelmed by your curiosity. Maamone is not a fictitous character as you may have been able to make out by now but inspired by a flesh and blood person whom I met when she was way past her prime. Needless to say, I was dazzled by her beauty, charm and entire personality. She turned out to be much more than what I had heard about her. Regarding her early life I do not know much. Though I have shrouded her in a film of enigma, she was very much down-to-earth suffering from her share of (human) errors and follies.

Thanks for the suggestion of a novel pivoting around Maamone. Even I would like to consider writing a book with her as one of the characters. But because her successors are known to me and still alive, I will have to think twice before putting pen to paper and revealing some of the home truths which may seem offensive / controversial to her siblings.

Once again I am indebted to you for taking such keen interest in my work.

Regards

Dec 19, 2011
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post script...
by: isabel

Thank you Geetha, I shall look for your novelas here... But like a child I'm excited to know the beginning life of Maamone, her childhood to womanhood until she was married to her husband and what transpired in her marriage. The impact she made and by the people surrounding her [past,present and the near future] ... That particular letter that changed q thing drastically. Too curious and excited to know that I think this beautiful and intriguing story should have a follow up... As many chapters as you want, to ultimately reveal this enigmatic woman called Maamone.

[would simply sign as...]

A woman dying of excitement to read more...

Dec 19, 2011
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Nice write-up
by: Deeptangshu Das

Wonderfully narrated, poignant and mesmerizing.

Dec 03, 2011
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Post Script...
by: Geetashree Chatterjee

Isabelle, if you like you can read two novellas that I have uploaded on this very site under - one under Novel Section and one under Children's Story.

Dec 03, 2011
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Dear Isabelle
by: Geetashree Chatterjee

I am overwhelmed by your effusive comment. Don't know how to thank you for your encouragement which pushes me to write more and big. I hope one day I'll be able to fulfill your expectations. Thanks once again.

Dec 02, 2011
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Thanks a lot
by: Geetashree Chatterjee

Thanks Lakshmi for your kind encouragement. It means a lot to me.

Dec 02, 2011
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beautifully written...
by: isabel

Beautiful... yet a very sad tale of a woman thrown into a loveless and useless marriage.

A very good story to explore and expand for a book Geeta... Can't wait to read a book written/published by you.

Sincerly, you have a great talent to write a book as great as the "War and Peace" by Leo T. (a favorite movie/book).

Dec 01, 2011
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Beautiful!!!
by: Lakshmi

Geeta, a beautiful story well written. Really enjoyed reading it.

Dec 01, 2011
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Once again...
by: Geetashree Chatterjee

Balaji thanks a lot for reading this short story. Yes, graceful acceptance of fate gives a lot of strength but it should not be equated with fatalism. Thanks once again for your esteemed comment.

Dec 01, 2011
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A Note of thanks
by: Geetashree Chatterjee

Thanks Vimala. You've always encouraged me.

Dec 01, 2011
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powerful
by: vimala

A beautifully narrated story from your powerful pen. Your characterisation and vocabulary have always impressed me, Geeta.

Dec 01, 2011
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Well written
by: Bala

A well written story showing the grace of the lady who had been wronged. Churchill once said that one has to be magnanimous in victory and graceful in defeat. Maamone perhaps felt herself defeated by her husband, but she did not make it an issue. She handled it with dignity and courage. In other words she was graceful in defeat.

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