Just Another Story?
Malati. A teenager. She lives in a village near Canning. She went to school until three years ago when her father thought it wise to drop her out of school. Now she helps her mother in daily household chores. But why am i suddenly sharing Malati’s story with you all on my blog? Because it’s Malati’s birthday today. She will turn 18 today. It is a big day for a girl in a village. When you turn 18, you become a woman. You can get married.
To celebrate the day, her father promised Malati, he will take her to Kolkata and buy her saris. Malati was excited. Going to Kolkata was like being served moon and stars on a platter. She put on her best attire (sadly it wasn’t as gorgeous as the words intend to convey), powdered her not so fair flesh, put a small bindi on the forehead (hoping someone just might take notice of her).
Outside Sealdah station, Malati was asked to wait. her father had gone to make arrangements for a taxi. She could not believe it, She would ride a taxi. Never in her dreams had she ever boarded a four wheeler. She was excited. And then her heart skipped a beat. A tall, handsome man (like the man who visits her dreams often) was walking up to her. “Tumi Malati?” he asked in his husky voice. She was not in a position to reply. She was dumb founded. All she could manage to do was keep looking at him. Gathering up all the courage, she shook her eye lids in the affirmative. The man smiled. “Ami Tapan, Tomar Baba tomi dakche. Chalo ( I am Tapan. Your Father is searching for you, Let’s Go)”. And he held her hand, a current flew through her veins. Like a newly wed wife, she followed the man,whom she did not know even five minutes ago.
At the taxi stand her father was waiting. “Malati, Ma amaar, ekhane ekta kaj peye gechi,onek taka. Ami tor sathe Bajaare jete parbona Maa. Tui Tapan er sathe jaa. O chena lok ( I got some work here, they will pay me handsomely, i cannot accompany you to the market, please don’t mind dear, Tapan will accompany you,Go with him, he is a friend).” Then pulling her close he whispers in her ears ” Ok khushi koris, pochondo hole tor biyeo hote pare or sathe (Try to please him, if he wills you two can get married)”.
It was surreal. She was on a date. On her 18th Birthday. In a taxi on her way to Hatibagan. With a stranger who could become her husband in future. At Shovabazar, the taxi entered an alley. Dark, stinky, most houses had windows which never open. And through the open ones a few females stared curiously at her. “Eta amar para, amar mashir sathe dekha korate enechi. Chalo ( This is my Para, i brought you here to introduce you to my Mashi)”.
They entered one of those dilapidated buildings, one woman was sitting by the stairs, on a chair. Her grey hair was tied in a bun at the back of her head, wearing a torn sari and an almost non existent blouse, she was counting money. “Taxir awaaj peyei bujhlam tora eli. Baah khaasa meye. ki chandpanaa mukh. Goron o bhalo ( I understood you are here,when i heard the taxi stop outside. What a beautiful girl you have got, such a pretty face)”. She waved the money over Malati’s head and gave it to Tapan. “Ami ok ghar bari dekhie ani. Sob bujhie sujhie nei ( Let me show her around the house, explain to her how things work here)”.
Tapan was sitting on the verandah outside and counting the money. He heard a shriek. It was Malati. Crying. Pleading. Wanting to go home. Cursing her father, cursing him. But he had no time for this. His next “would-be” wife is waiting at Howrah.