Distant Silhouettes - Chapter 5
by Tanuja Chatterjee
Back to Chapter 4
Chapter 5 Home Coming
"Realities of life are complex and complicated. It's kind of a jig-saw puzzle. I think it's so 'coz life itself is complex, enormous and intricately webbed." speaks Anya to Col. Todd, in the jeep, on their way back home.
"I'm tired of gender bias,the patriarchal traditional culture..... and....and...! It's so suffocating for a girl child to see the age of ten!" remarked Dr. Nirmal. "Just look at the way they treat their daughters!....training them to follow in their mother's footsteps!"
"You calm down Nirmal! You've done what you could in your capacity. Don't expect everything to change in a day!" said Anya calmly.
"My heart breaks to see such injustice. Who needs enemies then when protectors turn predators!" said Nirmal angrily. "It's getting worse, I feel. In the name of culture, they justify everything. Be it the case of female foeticide, female infanticide, dowry deaths.... domestic violence... how many... just how many you want to hear! The list is endless!"
Col. Todd who had been a silent listener till now said," Our Ramilla is fortunate to have you and Anya. You just saved her. So, be calm and we'll work out something. It needn't be just now!"
"You don't understand, Col., the time is running out. Ramy is one such victim. Think about those countless others who don't,"said Nirmal frustrated.
"And for Ramilla!...she has come in such a time, when her sisters, especially Apu, see and understand their environment through their observant eyes. If not today!.....tomorrow! She surely runs the risk of getting exposed to this rustic humour tomorrow! My little darling!"
Nirmal suddenly gave way to all his fears and reached out for Ramilla, who was sound asleep on the other seat.
Looking out of the window Anya thought the other way. "It's a very big responsibiity, to give back to society three normal healthy and rational brains who can think logically. I can't be beaten and low. I've got to give my all in bringing up the three, no matter what and how the weather is!" Talking to herself Anya was lost in her thoughts.
Col. Todd, had just returned from his trip to Laddhakh.He was on his visit to different monasteries, to have a look at some of the ancient scriptures there. During his stay in Dharamsala, he saw the news in the morning papers and got in touch. In the rest house at Chilgirhi, he decided to join them. He had already seen and grown fond of Ramilla though but wished to meet the other two young ladies back home too.
His Association with the doctors had been quite ancient now. It goes back to their days in Dibrugarh, Assam. Like him, Anya belonged to the family of tea planters in Assam. Assam tea is popular for it is strong with very little aroma. It's not like Darjeeling tea, which is soft light and cup full of aroma.
He had his education in England but returned to Dibrugarh, Assam in India to join his family business of tea plantation. Their bunglow was just opposite to Anya's enormous house at Chowkidingi,in Dibrugarh. Being a small town almost every one knew evrybody. The three soon became friends, but Todd lost touch, when Nirmal and Anya got married and shifted to Calcutta and then to Himachal Pradesh, eventually.
At the rest house, after a long time, the three enjoyed their evening tea together and rolled out a new plan for the next day which included Col. Todd.
"Are you very busy Todd?" asked Nirmal smiling at him.
"No, I'm through with my present project and it's just the paper work, which I'll begin within a week. And then I'll be busy with my research for a while," answered Col. Todd, "But why do you ask?" He looked at Nirmal with questioning eyes.
"Oh, I think he wishes you to accompany us at our present posting. Girls will be delighted to have you and so will we!" said Anya.
"That's a great offer! It'll be a nice break. Even I wish to be around you for sometime....lot of catching up to be done as well!" Todd answered happily."Hope it's not a bother for you!" he added.
"Bother! What bother!" said Anya immediately.
"Nirmal,he is coming with us. Where will you be going next?"enquired Anya.
'Kullu." Came the quick answer.
Finding a friend after bearing all brunts on their own they felt a bit distressed. But Nirmal's words couldn't stop haunting Col. Todd and he said," What have you decided for Ramilla?".
"What question is this?" answered Anya." What is there to decide now?" she remarked boldly.
"I was just caught in Nirmal's words. I think his fears are not phantasmal. These are crucial years for the child's development. After going through all these struggles to have her(pointing at Ramilla fast asleep)... legally,... you certainly wish... the... very best... for her. Don't you? A slight shift in the body language, a slip of tongue.....or... whatever... can cause breach of trust. A small chip is enough to detonate a life....and then..." He stopped. There was total silence inside the jeep, "rebuilding it will become mountainous task. So why get exposed to all this! Why not plan out a smooth sailing...for her at least the girls!" he said.
"Do you have any solution to the problem?" asked Nirmal.
"Yes! Think about it patiently. Let me rear the girls! " answered Col. Todd
"What!!!" the two yelled in unison.
"I can explain! Do you have good schools in this area?...No. Do you wish to make them self reliant?...Yes. Do you think that by staying at this place the girls will be enlightened by the light of education?....No. Can the boarding of a good convent school be an option?...yes." spoke Todd interestingly.
With many questions in their hearts they got out of the jeep. Ramilla jumped up at the sight of Apu and Iti, wishing to melt in their tight hugs, perhaps. The two came running and bounced on Nirmal and Anya, one by one and then quickly ran towards Ramy to choke her with their loving beer hugs, incognizant of tomorrows.
.........To be continued.........