by Jigyansa Mohanty
It is 5 a.m. and entire P.K street seem to be in deep slumber, except for the occasional morning walkers who have begun to take strolls with a stick in one hand and a basket in another barely missing any chance of picking and plucking any flower that came their way. Rhythmic chirping of winter birds and the devotional songs played in the nearby temple signals the beginning of a new day.
Standing on one corner of the porch and lost in her own thought is Sia, the pretty wife of Arun and the only daughter-in-law of Das family. Last night had been really tough for this young lady. Unable to sleep she had been taking turns in her bed, sometimes looking up the ceiling with eyes wide open and at times just pressing every possible icon on her smart phone, utterly confused and puzzled. Why did she come up with that untoward question and that too for someone she considered so close? When Arun had asked her repeatedly not to confront her beloved Rama Di then why did she do this? Varied thoughts started plaguing her and she could not put her mind to rest even for a second.
Rama Di was Arun’s aunt and Senior Das’s younger sister. Tall, dark with vermillion on her forehead she was no less than a motherly figure full of love and affection. From their courting days Arun has always warned Sia about his parents who were strict disciplinarians. By the time they got married Sia had developed cold feet and so-called phobia as to her adjustment in her dream abode. Newlywed Sia was hesitant to open up at her in laws place and it was until Arun asked her to take help of Rama Di that she could find someone to confine in.
When Sia stepped into Arun Niwas there was this lady standing near the gate and blowing the conch shell at her loudest best which marked that auspicious moment. From that day two years back to till date not a single day has passed when Rama Di was not besides Sia. A lady who was always cheerful, happy and with her pleasant smile could win hearts of many. Sia’s mother-in-law being a patient of osteoporosis hardly did any house hold work. Even her basic daily activities were completed with the help of Arun’s dad and Rama Di. Arun’s Dad too spoke very little and being a literature veteran was always into books and periodicals. At the age of 75 even after being operated for cataract in both eyes he used to spend half of the day in the in-house library. Arun was their only son and a rainbow baby who was born after three successive miscarriages. Initially Sia felt like a lone some in the new place but gradually on Arun’s insistence she started involving herself in the household chores and in this fledgling stage of hers there was this lady who stood like a pillar extending her hand any time Sia wanted.
One day post nuptials when Sia felt a slight discomfort after a heavy brunch Rama Di’s ambrosia Paan came to her rescue. Not only taste wise but the way it was rolled in the shape of a geometrical trapezium filled with cardamom, cinnamon, dry nuts and presented with a clove and cherry at the top was a treat to the eyes too. Sia was averse to this age old habit of Rama Di and was constantly after her to do away with the same. Every now and then she would try to counsel this lady but to no avail and the very next day looking at the light pink stains on the wash basin she would be deeply saddened. Once she discussed the same with her husband Arun who joked it off saying ‘I hope u succeed but Rama Di giving up paan is like a mother giving away her infant, still u try dear’. With each passing day some hope of hers was lost but still she continued with unceasing effort like a valiant warrior.
At this hour …..she is so helpless. She doesn’t have the courage to discuss her concern with Arun as she will be immediately rebuked and she can’t afford to displease him as Arun has always warned her to have control over her queer thoughts that keeps popping into her mind.
Today that she has intruded into this personal space of Rama Di she can hardly be at peace. Yesterday Rama di was so happy
as it was Savitri Pooja and she had been gifted with new saree and bangles by Sia’s mom-in-law. Her beatific smile was enough to explain the state she was in. Sia, her mom-in-law and Rama Di together prayed and fasted for the wellbeing of their better halves. With her coruscating gaze she touched and applied the vermillion on her forehead. Then why did Sia do this? There was a certain silence that followed when Sia asked
`Where is Piusa Di,have never seen him ,he doesn’t care for you it seems’.
The vermillion box suddenly fell off from Rama Di’s hand. With watery eyes and choking voice she took the box and tried to accumulate the ones that were scattered on the floor.
“Get a wet cloth Sia or else the stains will be there forever,” she said.
When Sia returned from kitchen with the cloth Rama di was not there,a slight door barging sound was enough to confirm that Rama Di had gone into her room. It was as if she had withdrawn to the untroubled quietude deep within her heart. Sia couldn’t gather the courage to face her and from that time she was lost in guilt. She never doubted her actions but today she felt like a culprit for whom her innocent Rama Di has been victimized. Sia remembered her Dad’s words that an arrow from a bow and a word from one’s mouth cannot be taken back. Deeply hurt she too silently slipped into her room, though the door was not closed fully just to keep a watch that in case Rama Di comes she will be the first one to run and apologize. But Alas! Rama Di’s door was shut and it seemed Arun niwas has gone into deep melancholy.
When Sia’s eyes fell on the antique wall clock hung near the entrance, it was already 6.30 in the morning. Immediately she ran to take shower, her saree falling apart from her shoulder sweeping the floor, hair curls rolling down the forehead swinging in linear motion, eyes swollen with mascara smudge and tears dropping down the cheeks. As soon as she entered her room she found Arun in deep sleep as usual. Silently walking on her toes she reached her closet from which she took out a cotton saree and was hurrying to the rest room when her eyes fell on a white paper folded and kept on the side table adjacent to her bed. Grabbing the saree in one hand she rushed to open the paper which was aptly folded twice. With shaking hands and moist eyes she opened the paper and to her utter dismay it was a note from her beloved Rama Di.
`Sia, Piusa is with his family, happy and content. When I was married off forty years back at the age of seventeen I didn’t know how to say no. I gave consent to an alliance that was fixed by my so-called elders in the family to a man who was twelve years my senior. Happily I set step into this new home of mine but the happiness was short lived as Piusa wanted to be with someone else and had agreed to this owing to parental pressure. Within a year of my marriage I came to know about it and all my dreams came crashing like a house of cards. I left my in- laws place and came here hoping one dawn will bring him back to me but the waiting was to no avail. He never came through in my teenage years and I always yearned for his love. A man whom I had loved from the bottom of my heart. Soon after I heard that Piusa has moved on and married his sweet heart. That was a point of realization, I tried tricking my mind but failed………….
- Rama Di’.
Sia was speechless. She threw her saree on the bed and ran towards Rama Di’s room but she was not there. She searched for her frantically and finally found her watering the tiny plants in the terrace corner.
She heaved a sigh of relief and gave a tight hug to Rama Di. It was silence that followed. It took no time for Sia to realize the deep love Rama Di had within for Piusa and how selflessly she has been observing all rituals that sounds synonymous with his wellbeing and bright future.
May be that’s what is called true love, even though it’s not reciprocated it never fades away…… she wondered. ***