Durga Didi- A woman unveiled
A divine woman blesses my neighborhood with her intricate feverish energy; I call her 'didi' ; but in the month of pujo, I call her 'Durga' because she looks no less than the goddess herself. She says that she loves being called didi, because none of her siblings have ever addressed her as so.
Early morning, instead of my regular alarm clock, I wake up to her singing 'Amar Hiyar Majhe Lukiye Chhile' (you hid in my heart- rabindra sangeet) while the music from her old sitar fills my sense with tranquility. In evenings, she calls me for a cup of tea and whispers to me her longings, the same way my jeje (grandmother) used to in my ears about her will to study like some secret better unheard. She tells me she wants to marry a man who will caress her hair when she cries incoherently against his chest, be her home, peck her forehead when she sees a nightmare, write poems for her, worship her godly form. We giggle, as I tell her that she will have to wait for the pujo to arrive then, but her happiness don't linger in her eyes- she looks like a Van Gogh painting to me.
"You are so beautiful didi", I compliment her as her doe eyes widen on my sudden accolade, and her thin chapped lips paint into a huge smile while her cheeks turn warm under the tones of red as she blushes. She pats my head lovingly and walks to the full length mirror beside, nodding her head in pity. Slowly, she smoothens the creases of her saree, combs her waist length curly locks. The happiness I see when she adorns the red bindi is unexplainable. All in all she looks like Durga as I call her, in her red and white saree with her magnificent shringaar; my Durga didi. Closing her eyes she fills her hairline with the vermillion and speaks to herself like a vow taken, "Thakurer naame" (in the name of lord).
Although she thinks that I don't notice, but I do. I notice, how dear she holds her clothing and hair to herself, how distant her eyes look when she talks about her wishes, how a tear drop mixes in the vermillion box as she controls her whimpers and, how a man enters and exits her house everyday except the evenings. When I ask didi about the man and his absence in the house, she ignores it; instead sulks about not being able to roam outside. I sit down, nagging her to fly free and like everytime, her eyes look at me in terror and she denies. Again the pujo arrives and as amusing as it sounds, a certain day didi tells me that for the first time in her life, she will step outside; devoid of the veil, keeping aside her fear and draping her saree in courage. Had I known that day would be the last time I will be seeing her divine form, in her shringaar and saree. Because the next time I saw her, she was on the pyre but her hair locks were gone, eyes empty of dreams and kohl, the vermillion had mixed into her blood, bangles broken and stuck into her pale wrist. Instead she was bald, her new grown moustache and beard visible and surprisingly she looked like the man I had always seen around her house. In her last breath, didi was no more a woman adorning vermillion, but a revolution embellishing blood.
As her body burnt in the fire, I saw Durga didi emerge amidst the flames from the body of 'the man' and walk out of it in rage, vulnerability but freedom. Durga didi, even though dead was finally out of the man's body.
Written By : Aakruti Sarangi
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