Bachhor Suru (The New Year)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Though it is a separate story, it is actually the sequel of my previous post, so, would recommend readers to read that first! Thanks!
Being the morning of the Bengali New Year, the shopkeepers will have to go to their nearest temple to get their new budget book marked with holy signs written on them. This is the special day for the shop keepers to start a new year according to the Bengali ritual "Haal Khata", the beginning of the financial year. On this very day, there is a puja of God Ganesha and Goddess Laxmi, for the betterment of one's business and the shopkeepers generally arrange a treat of sweets and beverages for their regular customers, specially for those, who pay back the debt's on this very day. They also presents the customers with a new Calendar of the Bengali year.

Malati works as a housemaid in the homes of such two shopkeepers. So, she had to leave early today, even before her husband Sajal and their daughter Sunita woke up. When she was about to leave, Sunita got up and sat beside her. She was going to say something but Malati put a finger on her lips to keep Sunita remain silent. She hurriedly instructed something to Sunita, her six year old daughter and headed towards the door of their one roomed shanty.

It's his dream place. Just as his wife dreamt for days. They have a small hut near the big pond of their's. The pond reflects the trees around it, mainly his favorite mango trees and jack fruit trees, also the coconut trees they have planted. Green mangoes are hanging from the mango tree while dark green young jack fruits are hanging down the jack fruit tree, here and there. He is sitting beside the pond with a fishing rod in his hand. The fishing rod has no wheel. He can see a far and wide distance from here. A vision too far towards the horizon where the river has moved lazily touching their village on her go. A fresh breeze oozing up from the heart of the river flowing through the green paddy filled fields towards their sweet home, soothing him to the deepest corner of his heart. Sunita, their only daughter is sitting beside him for a long time, waiting for a fish to gulp the bait and to get the fish hunting live. She lost her patience, came near to him. Put her small soft hand on his forehead. He cannot control himself, he is feeling dizzy and suddenly the there is a pull on the fishing rod. He hurried to pull it, but it's too late, too late to catch it, it's gone.

Sunita is very happy today as she received a very unexpected frock for her new year's day from her father. The frock looked nice in her eyes. It has a white body with blue stars inscribed in it, and the skirt is glistening with blue lace ribbons. She is so overwhelmed with joy that she started brushing his father's hair softly with her small soft hand, which she never does, for she fears her father, even if he is sleeping.

Sajal woke up. This is not a normal phenomenon. He never dreams, specially this kind of a sweet dream, and of course he is a bit astonished to find Sunita sitting beside him. He felt overjoyed, the day, he recalled is the first day of the Bengali year, the Naba Barsha (New year). He also recalled that he is on leave today. He slowly got up in a half sitting condition.

Looking at her beautiful dreamy eyes and her skinny structure in the old yellow colored white patched frock, and her velvety black curly hair bunched up over her head in a pony tail, he smiled to himself. No, she is not much different from the dream of his, only, she was wearing a nice dazzling white colored frock, with blue stars inscribed in it, just like the one he has bought for her last night.

"Ki vabcho?" (What are you thinking?") She asked.
"Nothing? Where is your mother?"
"She is out to work. Oho! I forgot. She has told me to give you the glass of water she kept for you, immediately after you get up." Like a scared rabbit she ran towards the kitchen of their one roomed shanty.
Malati is right, Sunita is growing up, really fast.
"Now take this papa", Sunita said bringing a glass of water towards him.

Sajal took the glass from her hand and started drinking the water. This is water with lemon juice. Just the best one can afford to get out of the hang over for last night's drinking.

"Baba eta kine enecho? Eta amar? Tumi enecho?" ("Dad, you have bought that for me? You have bought?") The young lady asked him. She could not belive her eyes. All the good thing she has been offered in her life is from her mother and when ever she wanted to be a bit closer to her father, her mother opposed. She has a developed impression in this young age of seven that, her father is of no good.

"Yes dear. This is for you. Do you like this?"
"Yes. It's so cute", she answered. And then tried to say something but controlled herself.
Sajal noticed that.
"Are you trying to say something more?" He enquired.
"No, no, nothing!" Sunita hurried towards the kitchen again.
"Don't go dear, tell me what's wrong." He said.

Sunita came back in an alarmed face. He fears her father. Her drunken father, who, sometimes, beats her mother. Her mother weeps! Her mother get bruises on her back, arms, sometimes on her cheek. He generally comes back home at a time when she is asleep. He never teaches her when she is studying. He never takes them away from this place, as some of the fathers of her friends in school do. He rarely caress her or kisses her. But still, with her small weakened heart of six years, with the least developed human brain to take up all the complexities of this cruel world, with the best possible courage she can gather in herself, she asked her father the questions that goes on and on, in her mind all the time.

"Papa, why do you beat my mother? Why don't you come back early? Why do you drink?"
And then, suddenly realizing the consequences of her inquisitiveness, she uttered.
"Please papa, don't beat me. I am too small to bear that! Please don't hurt me. I won't ask you such questions anymore."

Sajal is shocked. He just couldn't believe his ears, neither could believe his eyes. The little child, whom he thought, he loved more than anything in this whole world is actually scared off him. His frustration has become endless and all his frustration about losing jobs, not getting proper jobs, loosing his ancestral properties to his relatives, loosing the faith in his wife, loosing the self confidence of getting out of this hell ever, seemed much smaller than this one. The little lady, who has come to their world to enlighten their lives with fresh hope and zeal to live again, for a real good cause. The little one with whom he was happy for so many days when he took her home, spent nights after night sleeplessly to bring her up, fears her? Hates her? He just could not take it any more. Though Sunita struggled to get away from him, he grabbed her, embraced her, put her near to his heart.

"No dear. No. Please don't misunderstand me. Your papa is not that bad, papa will teach you. Papa will not beat mom and will leave drinking. Papa will take you away to the village of mom's dream. I shall never beat you my dear. Please forgive me."

Tears started rolling from both the father's and daughter's eyes, as if cleansing the stain from their long stained relationship.

The new day of the year for them has been a different one but may be their unfulfilled dreams be fulfilled if he can keep his promises for his family. Who knows?


Bachor Sesh (End of the year)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

It is late at night. No passers by can be seen on the alley and the lying street dogs are the only witness. He is drunk today. He is getting back home a little late. As late as he could. Almost running though the half-dark alley towards their home. It's not a home for him. Rather the house made with the semi masonry structure, the tin roof and a small veranda with the only room they have can better be called a shanty.

He has got his salary as the security guard at a nearby residential flat just two days back. He has even bought a new frock for their daughter, Sunita, today. Today was the ending of the stock clearance reduction sale going on in the preparation of the Bengali new year, the Naba Barsha. He actually love to be with his family. He starts every day with a very cool mind, but whenever his friends mention that when he is not around for some days, Malati, his wife, sales herself, he cannot stay away from boozing. If it would have happened so that he can prove something against Malati, he could have been happy. That makes him more maddened more frustrated, and in place of keeping trust on Malati, he always tries to find out a way, to catch her red handed.

Even today before he boozed, he planned to purchase something for Malati. And suddenly came the thought of Malati waiting for her customer, as the girls near the Kalighat bridge (a nearby red light area) do, he rejected that thought. He felt a sudden urge to drink again. "Khanki Saali (Bitch), the day I catch you read handed, I shall murder you.", he thought.

Malati works at the nearby residential flats. She is the main earning member of their family. Sajal was never ever a good and honest man in his life. He has lost many jobs and has started a fresh from the beginning of a new job sometimes after returning from his short terms in jail. Most of the time he was punished in petty cases of drinking and gambling. Malati being at the age of twenty seven and mother of their single child, still looks young and good looking. Younger than many other slum dwellers of her age, and good looking because she maintains her looks. She always heard from her relatives that she was actually from a good family around two generations back. Fleeing from Bangladesh, staying in this slum for twenty years has taught her a lot to accommodate herself against all odds of this life. She nowadays earn much more than Sajal, and tries to drive her family in a best possible manner she can. She sends their daughter to school, even planning to teach her dancing and wants to settle down at a far village from this city full of ominous poisonous people she regularly faces.

Other than her income as a cook and housemaid in different families of the nearby flats, she could have started some secret works parallel. Many of the house maids leaving by them have started these earning though some crooked manner. Malati even was approached by some of them. She always has stayed more arrogant more tough in her mind to fight out these odds. She cannot sale herself in that way to a customer, who will like to purchase her body for his carnal pleasures for some hours. The more she thought about that the more her dreams of staying with their daughter in a village house budded in her mind. In a far away place from Kolkata, where her known relatives live. A village as shown in the Bengali movies, she watches. She and her daughter, and Sajal. Well, if he insists, Sajal can stay, but in that case he will have to leave his bad habits, specially boozing and beating her.

Tonight, Malati has bought a new sari for her and a new frock for their daughter. She even managed to buy small half sleeved kurta for her husband. After all, this is the time when the shop keepers bestows people with their long awaited clearance sale for the year. The last of the Bengali year is the last day of this clearance sale. The next day being the Nababarsha, new year's day.

Sajal entered the room with the packet of frock in his hand. He at first was going to gladly hand it over to Malati, then, recalling the same scene, he just thrown it at a corner of the room.
"What is in it?" Malati enquired.
"None of your business." Sajal replied harshly. "It's something for Sunita."
"So, how much has it cost you?".
"That also not your concern." Sajal replied. "It's my hard earned money."
"Your money counts to our money. You are not supposed to waste all you get as salary on a single evening."
"Why? Can I not buy my daughter something? Why?"
"Because we need to save money. Have you ever thought, how we will live for betterment? To get out of this hell some day? Have you ever dreamt of this? Do you ever thought of your family? What they will eat, what they will wear? No. You waste your money, my hard earned money for drinking that dog pee every night." Malati barked back.
"I shall do whatever I shall think good. If you don't like to stay, leave immediately. Get out right now. I drink on my money, not on your nasty money."
"Is it? Whose property is this? This room is mine. Go get lost. You can't throw me out, I shall."
"Shut up. You bitch. You play around with men to get us money, you whore. Don't say another word, or I shall bit you up."
"Don't you know, your daughter is getting older now? Don't you know how to behave? Who said you such things? I am pure like Sati and Sabitri." (Sati and Sabitri are two famous mythological characters, famous for their honesty and loyalty to their husbands.)
"You behave yourself, you bloody whore. I have bought this from my honest income not from selling myself as you do. Say a single more word and I shall show what I can do."
"Do you think you can? Touch me right now. Show me the man you are. You nasty filthy pig. Your mind is full of shit."

In general, this regular quarreling leads to beating of Malati, sometimes it turns into a savage sexual encounter between them, but today the quarreling became louder over time. While all the other dwellers feel asleep being exhausted from their daily labors and daily habits, they carried on their quarrel for some time. Then Malati went to bed with her asleep daughter, while Sajal slept at the veranda outside.

This is how the last day of the Bengali year for a unknown lower class couple in Kolkata, ended.


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