Waiting for you, Nili
by Pragati Bakshi
Every year as the month of March, approaches to its culmination marked by the festival of Holi she blooms into over laden yellow flowers. This feminization of tree would have been indeed an audacity if Nili looked any bit different than this tree. Nili was enigma if not for others but for me. Whenever I saw her she looked so ethereal, sometimes clad in turmeric colored saree she was transformed (resembled will not be an appropriate word) into beautiful tree devoid of leaves but blooming with yellow flowers. Nili was unhappy, so what we all are! But my (do I have a nerve to call here mine?) lovely Nili is different. Her difference yet her semblance to this universe always baffled me. Whenever I think of you a sad faint melodious tune echoes, permeating my surroundings.
Nilanjana Sharma, whom I wished I could call Nili and I were recently posted as management trainees at one of the rural branch of the largest nationalized banks in India. During first two months of her sojourner as management trainee she was so taciturn that we thought her to be dumb. After completion of that first two months of our probation, Nilli was transferred to an urban branch and I was retained in same rural setup. I wanted to talk to her and my desperation to be in her proximity was now apparent to every person around. Nevertheless, each of my such endeavors was thwarted by the invisible and impenetrable cloak that Nilanjana had surrounded herself with. Hence forth with deep sigh and unexplained anxiety I made up my mind to say good bye.
A day before her departure, mild sound of tapping of the door brought me back to my casual alertness. “Yes”, I answered, “It’s me Nilanjana Sharma” This was totally unprecedented! Yet with feigned aloofness I asked her to come in. Nili was pretty straight in just putting “I want to talk to you”. Somewhat regaining my composure, I fixed my gaze on her dark unfathomable eyes and answered meekly,” Yes Nilanjana talk to me”. And that what Nili in her sweet voice narrated nonchalantly left me flabbergasted
Nilanjana was married at the age of 22.
Ironically she could not segregate between her parent’s act of marrying her off and that of disposing garbage off. Marriage to naïve shop owner, did not ignite in her urge to enjoy marital bliss. The Shop-owner was a gentle person rather a moron with no hint of self-respect. Nili was in custody of her in laws. Their household was as it ought to be, a taciturn daughter in
law, an obedient son, a quarrelsome and harsh mother in law and a lecherous and dominating father in law.
One fine summer day, as to put in the words of Nili, something happened, but to her husband nothing happened. That what had occurred ripped apart Nili's existence, bruising her soul and transforming her silence into piercing scream. Nili said, "That was the day of Holi. I was in the kitchen preparing savory for guests. My mother in law called me to get her closet adjusted. I stopped my unending culinary work and hasted towards helping the old lady in the dark dingy room. Mother in law along with father in law was in the room. Suddenly she left leaving behind the lecherous old man and a heavy air impregnated with distrust and griminess. Yet, I suppressing my impulse to run away, started adjusting the ward robe. Inadvertently as I turned around I was petrified. Something started ripping my soul apart. Father in law was staring in very perverted way as if, he was ripping apart my clothes through his voyeuristic eyes. I felt like nauseating. My voice all of sudden got muted. And I felt that intense agony and helplessness what a goat feels when dragged towards slaughter house”. Tears started dropping from her beautiful eyes. Her body was trembling in an agony, that found a vent up in front of a stranger. “Sit down Nijanjana.” I asked but Nili did not sit. She continued in her low coherent voice with the heart breaking narration of the agony bursting inside and burning her with intense pain. Nili fought; for the right to dignity and right for hope (with herself) for access to remote optimism. That fateful day Nili cried, shouted and called her husband; her husband reciprocated with a blank look and a continuous gazing towards the horizon waiting for some angle to arrive! “I could not stand erect, but my spineless husband was erect and mute as statue. His mother hurled choicest abuse towards me defending the lecherous father in law.”
Soon Nilanjana stepped out of that household with clear hair parting without any stain of vermilion. She was all alone with her self-proclaimed marital status to face the world armed with a wisdom of remote optimism.
Next day Nili bade goodbye to all in my branch. She came to me, said nothing but her sad smile and her intense gaze are alive in each throb of my heart beat. Now all I want to say,” I, my whole world, with bunch of turmeric colored flowers are waiting for you, my lovely Nili”. ***