i tried submitting my story earlier. Unfortunately, I do not get to see it along with the other stories posted above. I am trying to resubmit my story in the hope that you will be kind enough to include it for the Award Category. My mere entrance might lead me in the long run to the realization of a long-cherished dream.
Eagerly looking forward to a favorable response from your side. With regards and best wishes,
The Day the Bati Saved My Ma:
The Day the Bati Saved Our Honor:
As the only child, I’s the apple of my parents’ eyes. But before proceeding with my story any further, let me tell you about myself. I’m Jharna, meaning the spring. This was how I was christened by my father. My father, inspite of being a shopkeeper was a poet at heart and dreamt of providing me with the kind of life he himself was deprived of in his childhood. I still remember those days when I’d get out to the adjacent room that served as the shop on the main road in front of the living room of our rented house. Other than the living room, we had a bed room at the corner that was shared by all of us – we were four in number. My parents, my paternal aunt, who was a spinster, and me. At night, like it is the case in a remote rural area in Bengal, father and I would share the bed while Pissi (aunt) and Ma would share the mat on the floor. Life, as you must have realised by now, was tough. I grew up like a princess though in a far away village called Jiaganj somewhere in West Bengal.
Both my parents had to struggle very hard and the little money that my father earned from his shop, was barely enough to feed four mouths. I adored my father like he adored me. As I was telling you, when I’d go out to the shop adjacent to our house, father would take me, let me sit comfortably on his lap and as business would be light on most of the days, more often than not, he’d turn on the cassette player, the only valuable item we had in our home at that time and play a song of Shyamal Mitra, a popular singer of yesteryears. I loved listening to the song and by the time I was six or seven, I could easily sing along with him:
Na, na, na, jabona, mono jete nahi chai,
Ei sundar prithibi chhere mono jete nahi chai.. (I’ll never ever go, go away, leaving this beautiful world behind..)
So long as father was alive, life, despite all its squalor and hardships, was beautiful. On holidays, he would take us in the morning across the ground to the river and we’d have a whale of a time swimming in the river. I took to swimming very early in life and the day I won the 7 km contest for the Junior Category, my father’s happiness knew no bounds. That’s when I started dreaming about being a state level swimmer. I was like my father a dreamer as well. My other dream was to be somebody, earn money, supplement his meagre income and make my parents and Pissi very very pruod of me.
In the evenings, after uncle Binu’d left the shop, father would call me again and tell me stories of Hiranyakaship and Prahlad, the demon king and his son, and how Hiranyakaship was tamed by Lord Vishnu in the form of a half lion and a half human. Binu Kaka was a neighbour and helped my father from time to time, much against the chagrin of both my Ma and Pissi. He was a recluse, taciturn by nature and father seemed to be the only friend he had ever had. There was something about his well-oiled hair and pan-smeared lips that I found difficult to put up with.
To continue with my narrative, let me tell you this that my faith in God must have stemmed from all those stories my father told me and his honesty. On any day, If he was in a lighter mood, he would start teasing me about my marriage and all his plans about it. By the way, I should have told you that child marriage is the in thing even today in this part of the world. I was already 12 and people started talking to my father about not to wait any more as I was growing up fast. I still remember that fatal day in September. School was out and I had fun along with some other girls in the ground behind our house. We were playing ‘gleefully lost in our world, Saat Ghuti”, a kind of game using some seven round-shaped objects made of broken bricks with a ball, when I could hear the panicky voice of my mother. I had purposefully left out telling you anything about my mom till now. She was a quiet lady and spent all her days and spare time taking care of the kitchen. In her early thirties, she was one of the most beautiful ladies in our locality. Her glowing skin, large, dark eyes, with the cascade of curly hair parted in the middle highlighted by the red vermillion dot on the forehead, made me think of her time and again as akin to Goddess Durga. She was passionate about us and made innumerable sacrifices in order for me to be educated, self-dependent and happy in life. She was, just like father, a busy lady and I cannot recollect an occasion when I found her lazying around. My Ma would never let me come anywhere near the kitchen to help her with the household chores. She raised hell the day I needed the bati, the sharp, crooked knife generally used for chopping vegetables, to cut a small piece of rope into halves without her knowledge. She made me promise later never to use that sharp tool again. Surprising no doubt, considering the fact that girls my age are normally initiated in the kitchen quiet early in life. My parents’ world revolved around me and they wanted me to enjoy my days at my parents’ place.
Anyway, to come back to that day - the fear in my mom’s shaky voice told me instantly that something was very wrong. I ran in our house through the back door. As I entered the living room, I found my father trying to break open the door of our bed room. I distinctly remember what happened next. The old door gave way after a few kicks. No sooner had father rushed inside than he let out a pitiful cry. The sight of my aunt hanging from the old fan, would be something tormenting me for the rest of my life!
I don’t remember though what happened next. Amidst the cries, shouts, all I could make out was that aunt was pregnant and as she considered herself a burden on us, she went for some quick solution and took her own life. Although father knew what the culprit was, he thought it best not to raise a hue and cry over the whole issue. But deep inside, he was badly broken and bruised by my aunt’s suicide. She was the only sibling he had and he loved his sister as daughter and friend. I think the death of aunt broke my father internally. The smile was gone from his face for good. Gone were the days of songs. I forgot to tell you that Binu Kaka’s visits to our house at odd hours stopped altogether after Pissi’s tragic death.
On an afternoon of gloom and doom, right after lunch, father complained of a chest pain and retired to bed. Ma was busy in the kitchen washing and cleaning for the next hour or so. By the time, she could go back to the bedroom; she was surprised to see father sound asleep. As father was not in the habit of taking an untimely nap in the middle of the day, she got worried and went closer to make sure that everything was all right. Unfortunately, nothing was. By the time, doctor uncle came to our house and checked his pulse, father was long gone. He’d received a massive heart attack in his sleep.
Some people, I guess. are not meant to realize their dreams. I was one such unlucky person. With my father’s untimely death, my world around me crashed as well. I knew I had to do something as the eldest child to keep our family going. Ma was grief-stricken after father’s death and missed him all the time. I’d to go to one of my distant relative’s house that evening to borrow something. As I turned the corner leading up to our house, the sky had turned pitch dark. I hurried thinking about how worried Ma must be. As I entered from the back, the stillness, the death quiet of the house frightened me.
“Ma. I’m back and I’ve got the rice…Ma, where are you? Can’t you hear me?”
There was no response. The stillness of the living room seemed to be mocking me at that time and then I could hear some groans as if somebody was struggling with something, desperately trying to break free. I hastened my steps to the bed room. What I saw nearly took my breath out of me. Ma was trying her best to fight the monster, Binu Kaka, trying to stop him from pushing her to the bed. While he was pressing her mouth shut with one hand from behind and like a brute, pushing her to give in with all his strength. The terrified look on my mother’s face is what actually made me come back to sense. As I looked around, I could see the shining bati lying outside the kitchen door. Probably, Ma was preparing dinner when the evil man stepped in stealthily to satisfy his lust.
I picked up the bati and the next moment could hear someone blurting out from deep down: “Get your hands off her if you care for your life!” To this day, I cannot tell you anything about what was there in my voice or the rage that took hold of me at that time, but the fact of the matter is BInu Kaka, the man who always acted a family friend and well-wisher, ran out for his life like the coward that he was. He was never seen in our locality after the incident. A few months after this awful experience, we switched house and moved next to my maternal uncle’s. My mom and I remain the best of friends till date.