[There are truly wonderful people in this world. They try to make this world a better place to live in. unfortunately, Life is not fair to them at times. But they never complain and suffer in silence ..] This Parul Had Brothers Four: Sorry, let me tell you at the onset, that her real name was not Parul. I couldn’t help using the name Parul for the title for my Bengali readers so that it would be easier for them to relate, to her thinking of the popular song of ‘Seven Champa brothers and Sister Parul’. In a lot of ways, the song is similar to the very popular fairytale of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ with the sole exception that the dwarfs were not Snow White’s brothers. Let’s get at the beginning of the story. Her real name was Vijeta. The story has it that her parents got her after four sons. As Sushil Babu wanted a daughter badly. He along with her spouse, Karuna Devi went from one temple to another the fifth time she conceived. God is gracious. Their prayers were heard and Jibi was the answer. Though they had another son later on, that is another story. Sushil Babu named her Vijeta for he had the firm conviction that his only daughter would have to fight many battles in her life, born as she was in a family of four brothers. He also believed that his daughter would win each of those battles that Life would throw on the way. From her early childhood, Vijeta was the apple of her parents as well as siblings' eye. They never let her out of their sight for a moment and as she grew up, their love for the only daughter and sister grew even more. Fair, with the eyes of a doe and a cascade of curly hair framing her face, she was adored by anyone who set eyes on her. She was just seven years old when her eldest brother went abroad for higher studies. He was the most ambitious of the siblings. Despite all his career ambitions and aspirations, he was sad to leave his only sister when the time came for departure. Even Karuna Devi was taken aback to find him turning away his face from his little sister to hide the tears welling up in his eyes. “Bona (sister) study hard and be a good girl always…” All Vijeta, too small to understand why everybody looked sad and worried, could do was to blurt out, “Take care and come back soon, Barda. Everyone will miss you..” Somesh, her eldest brother laughed inspite of himself and held her chin in his hand. As Sushil Babu cried out from the cab waiting at the door, he did not spend any more time with his family and hurried down the stairs. Vijeta felt a pang of pain as all the members of the family stood outside the main door waiving and crying and wishing Somesh a safe journey. Time rolled by and her brother brought the best gifts for her when he came back to Calcutta a few years later. Vijeta’s pride knew no bounds when she dressed in the frock, with the striking color combination of white, gold and pink, went around the house the next day holding the doll bigger than her with both hands. “Look at my dress aunt, Barda’s brought for me from New Zealand.” She pushed her aunt’s hand away when she playfully tried to reach out for the doll. “No, no, don’t touch it. Khuku is mine.” If Barda loved her a lot, Manish, her second brother, loved her no less. He’d started working in the local school and was waiting for the result of his M.A. Examination to be out. The day he drew his first salary, he bought a sari for Vijeta, the first sari of her life. She was in Class-IX by then and wearing that sari, she went to school on the day of the Saraswati Puja (worship of Saraswati, the goddess of Learning). She looked a few inches taller in the sari. “Vijeta, you look beautiful today. Who’s brought you the sari?’ her headmistress asked her. “My brother, Manish. He teaches at the boys’ school here.” “Does he? Will he teach me as well. Everybody is talking about your brother and what a good teacher he is…” The day brother Manish got married to Bichitra, the headmistress of her school, Vijeta looked like a picture in the sea-green silk sari that she was given a few months back by Suresh, her third brother. ‘Look at my sis-in-law sitting on the cushioned sofa! Can anyone be more beautiful than she is” Among all her siblings, Suresh loved her the most. Broad-shouldered like her other brothers, he had gone a step further and started working as a Lecturer of a college in rural Bengal. He was also the most religious of all her siblings. The first time he came back due to the Puja holidays, she was sleeping beside Ma on the mattress in Baba’s (father's) room. There was a knock on the main door. Ma sprang up and rushed out of the room saying: Ke Suru eli naki (Is that you Suru?). Next moment the whole household was awake with cries of ‘Suruda’s come’,’ take that bag from his hand’ and so on. Later, when things had quietened down a bit, Suresh opened his suitcase and offered her present. She felt like a queen on that day. Life unfortunately, is not a picnic. And she realized that soon when one after noon, on her return from school, she found Ma in tears. Her second brother, Manish had informed her parents about his decision to move to a rented house. He had accepted a better prospect as the Headmaster of a school away from his locality and conveyance was going to be a problem. Besides, his wife seemed to have a problem with their lifestyle as well. Vijeta felt an emptiness that stayed inside her for a long while the day her brother and sis-in-law left the house. A few years later when Vijeta rejected a very tempting marriage proposal and informed her father of having lost her heart to a struggling businessman, Manish was the first one to raise a hue and cry. As long as he was alive (he was the eldest in the absence of Somesh, who had in the meantime, moved to Europe and pursuing his Ph. D. at Cambridge), he would not let Bona, the youngest sister, get married to a hanky-panky businessman. Besides, the boy belonged to another caste. Hell broke loose in the household and continued to reign for the next couple of days. That’s the first time Vijeta saw the ugly hood of hatred on his second brohter’s face. Manish was so very shook up by his sister’s refusal to marry the son of a college Principal that he stopped talking to his sister from then on. Had his eldest brother been not summoned by his mother at that time, she would have remained a spinster all her life. Anyway, Vijeta got married in a grand wedding ceremony due mainly to the presence and interference of brother Somesh. The other brothers were so stunned by the turn of events that they unofficially boycotted the wedding. By the way, I forgot to tell you about Vijeta’s youngest brother, Bibhas. He was the cutest doll she had ever had and her world revolved round him. She’d wake him up in the morning, take him to the flower garden to fetch flowers for the household deities, bathe him, dress him up for school, fight with the boys who had teased him during playtime and feed him when Ma was busy doing something else. Even her friends treated him like their own brother. She felt broken, empty the day she left her house for the In-law’s place. She was smart enough to realize that none of her elder brothers would pay her a visit for quite a long time. Anyway, time is a speedy healer and things improved drastically after her father’s death. She sat like a statue near his father’s dead body and cried her heart out. She remained her father’s pet till the last day of his life. Among the brothers, Somesh, the eldest brother, was her greatest strength. He got married after her marriage, to a foreigner, a Britisher, who was highly qualified and working in the same university. The first time she came home after he brought his new bride along with him , she couldn’t stop talking about her foreigner sis-in-law. She was so good looking, so educated, so this and so that. It was nerve-racking therefore, when she heard her second sis muttering sometimeamidst the flurry of activities: Let ‘s see how long they stay married. There’s no knowing the ways of these foreigners. They change their spouses like one changes one’s tissues ….” At the Reception Party that evening, she was asked to welcome the invited guests with a rose each. That was when he came to know about her younger brother’s fiancée, an extremely good-looking bloke, studying for Honours in Economics at the best girls’ college in Calcutta. But her happiness at meeting her was short-lived as she heard her whispering to Bis, her youngest bro’s nickname, “Isn’t she the one who married against the wish of the whole family?” Vijeta hastily turned her head away to the other guests as her brother tried to hush his fiancée into silence. She had loved them all and as are the ways of the world, all her siblings got busy with their own world one after another. But then she had NIl, her husband, the one, she had thought, who would always be by her side; who would never stop loving her and treating her as the queen of his world. If their marriage was a whirlwind affair, their post marriage life was no less. Nil and his family considered the new bride as their lucky charm as a few months after the marriage, he got a banker’s job. Things began to look up in the business front as well. With steady cash flowing in, life for the newly-married couple was like a dream. They would go, party, eat out in the most expensive restaurants and hotels, and go on a longdrive with some of his closest friends. Life couldn’t have been any better, despite the cold treatment of her brothers. They had a daughter born by that time. The task of bringing the angel up, she took upon herself. After all. Her husband was working like a workaholic. From office where he reached sharp at 8 in the morning to his business place after wards, he wouldn't be back home most of the days beffort 9.30 to 10. To keep him worry-free, she made sure that there was no extra headache regarding their daughter. It was a gorgeous day in February. They had gone picnicking to a place some 15 kms away from the heart of the city. The picnic spot, a mango groove, looked like a memory from a distant land. She was enjoying herself with his friends. Her daughter Prachi was busy playing games with the other children, when Biru, one of Nil’s closest friends, teasingly remarked: “Hey, Bhabi. What’s this rumour I’ve heard about Nil? Is it really true that he comes back home quite late in the night? That he is getting very close with one of his colleagues…?”As Biru made this comment, the other friends started chuckling to themselves. Vijeta was in a mood to take it lightly but the reactions of the friends made her act otherwise. She simply got up from her place and left them on the pretext of looking for her daughter. She was decent enough to retain the smile on her face all along. But the smile was to fade soon not only from her mouth but also from her life as well. Strange things started happening from then on. While travelling by bus, she received a call from a stranger threatening her that she could not snatch Nil from the caller. Nil was unhappy married as he was to Vijeta and she would go to any length to pleasure him and so on… That was how suspicion started flaming its way into her life. One night when Nilcame back quite late, she asked for an explanation, in a proper manner like a dutiful wife should. She wished later that she could turn back the clock and erase that night from her life. Nilwas furious. He strutted and stammered and through it all, shouted at the top of his lungs like hell knew no other fury. That was the beginning of the end. One thing led to another. Things got serious and soured between the two of them. Her last hope was her daughter. But the day she tried to justify herself to Prachi, she cut her short as soon as she started by raising a finger to Vijeta’s mouth: I don’t want to hear anything about my father. He’s the best father in the world for me. No one can make me give up on him (Now where did this thought of giving up on her father come from?). Not even you….” She had seen it all, suffered a lot at the hands of the people who, at one time or the other, meant the world to him. Prachi’s remark was the final nail in the coffin. Without telling anything to anyone, because she was afraid of making scenes, she started looking for a job and when she received an offer as the Matron of a reputed school in North Calcutta, she was initially undecided. Then she thought of giving it a try. As luck would have it, she got selected from among competitors more qualified, more experienced than she was. She asked Nil to reach her there. She was in luck. He was in a good mood and reached her there. Told him at the time of leaving that he was impressed with the place. That was that. He never bothered to find out how life was treating her afterwards. She had suspected it all along. She knew that there was a love triangle developing involving another woman. But she was too tired, too upset to fight another battle and comeout victorious. On a Sunday afternoon, when the postman came back to Nil’s posh apartment on the sixth floor for the third time, he was surprised to see a notice ”For Sale” hanging on the locked collapsiblegate. On enquiry, he learnt that none of his neighbours knew anything about his whereabouts. He inexplicably seemed to have vanished from the face of the earth. The End
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