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Bou Bhaat!

Bou Bhaat!

Bou Bhaat - hand in hand

The author Pallav Chatterjee narrates a beautiful story of the pledge of the man to his newly wed bride

“Aami tomaar bhaat kapod-er bhaar puro jeebon nebaar protigya kori”
(I pledge to take the responsibility of your life and livelihood)

Purohit (the priest) asks her to touch her groom’s feet and thank for pledging to protect her and take care of her for the full of her lifetime.

She bends down and touches his feet…

This wedding ritual is a strange one, happens a day after the main wedding day and after which, bride and the groom are announced to begin living their married life thereafter. This custom is called Bou Bhaat.

Interestingly, this ritual is followed across the country (India) or perhaps across the world in some form or the other, regardless of the place or culture, the essence remains the same though…

… Bride leaves her home to settle with the groom; it’s a defining change for the girl who is now a wedded wife, a new member in a new family, which she now starts calling her own.

While, when the girl moves into a new home, new family and new setting of her life, what she goes through is understandable, all the nostalgia, all those uncertainties, eagerness and anxieties ahead. However, what often gets missed is what happens to those who are left behind, her parents.

It was not until about a few years after our marriage, that some work related travel made me pay visits to my in-laws home a bit more frequent. And, as I was travelling alone, visiting them without my wife around with me, something struck me. And, it was a very thoughtful experience!

the wedding

My First Date…

Quite so often these days almost in a week’s frequency, I have been coming here. This place deserves the merit of being the place where my wife used to live in her un-married days, her days of growing up, until that day when she got wedded away.

Every time I’m here, I get overwhelmed with such humbling thoughts that I couldn’t help myself this time to stop and write something about it, all those feelings that hang and weigh down on my heart.

These thoughts heavily paint the visions that I get and dance eerily in front of my eyes, as if some roller coaster emotional dream is woven together in a heady drama and in a playing-back mode, playing in a loop;  this happens whenever I come here alone –  without accompanying her.

The story starts sometime about six years ago (or seven I don’t quite exactly remember now…) when we sort of first bumped across each other. No,… no, it wasn’t then that we met, it was about when we sort of happened first to be got introduced to each other, out of some coincidence, through an e-mail.

And, in about not a very long time later, that I came here, and we eventually met for the first time – Face to Face. My first date.

She was in white printed loose top and a pair of denim trousers, looking fit and dapper, all so pretty. She had a round and pretty face. A little chubby like as I had imagined, her face had freshness about it, and of course she was as jovial and funny as she sounded on the phone. She smiled at me, rather laughed a lot.

It was her Kinetic Honda scooter, which was standing just outside the bakery where we met. She was a young college going girl then. Second year in her master’s in computer science in Anna University.

Parents of the bride

At the first instance itself, I could realize that she was her papa’s girl, her mom’s best friend – cynosure of their eyes. They must have been very proud and very fond of her, they still are….but the indulgence has changed, not theirs but hers. Back then, her parents and her place were her whole world, but now she is divided between so many worlds she’s living and toggling between.

But as for her parent’s things are not so different, they are still devoted to her, all is still the same, albeit now that she is living so far away!

So, after we met that day, I was invited to her place, she kind of lugged me along in the rear seat of her scooter, the two wheeler which seemed to be her alter-ego of sorts. It was not unwise of me to see a life-form in it, her sibling in a different form, a two-wheeled avatar of “sister in law”.

Shoshurbaadi

Once we reached, it was parked just outside the portico of the entrance to the two storeyed home. This house I never could have imagined in my life, that I would be soon calling it my in-laws’ place – Shoshurbaadi (Sasural or home of the in-laws’)

So, there was she, my ‘sister-in-law’ finally standing parked, swelling with pride,  getting a rest in her glory, as we got in.

That seems now a long time ago. Now, that when I am here, the scooter is no more, parking space meant for it – is vacant. Like my wife, my “sister-in-law” too has been wedded off and now gone somewhere far away.

As I enter the home and look around, I see the wardrobe which once used to be full of her belongings, her dresses, her shoes, now sadly locked and mostly empty inside. If at all, there are some dresses that hang inside, are not to be worn any more – they are meant to be there for “just-in-case-if needed” basis , no more friends, no more outings, no more parties ; no more any chance of  she asking her mom, “Kemon Laaghche?” (How do I look?)

The bride

The music system which once used to blare her favourite numbers, now lying at its usual place, dusted, squeaky clean, polished, but as evident – now never used; as if it’s in a half slumber and dreaming of past …asleep and silent.

I go further in, go up to her room, there is a large dressing mirror with the table in front, on which her cosmetics are still thrown in, the same way she had left them before. The last time when she’d have used them, was perhaps before going out with her college friends long many years ago.

I come out and walk down the stairs, back into their living room. There is a huge loft there, not too high for me to stretch to try and have a look. A lot of toys inside, displayed.

What caught my eye were the small dolls, a toy telephone and some pretend tea-sets. Those toys and the dolls she used to play with when she must have been, I guess about four or five, they still look mischievous, still as much playful for a five-year-old girl.

I looked at them through the glass shutter-door on the loft, they looked at me, as if they were telling me that they were sad and locked-up for ages, keeping old memories, of some laughters, giggles and play.

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This whole place, every corner has a smell of her, a feel of her, her whole story from being born, to a toddler taking baby first steps, to her school and to the college days and finally that one fine day she met her Beau.

Koney – Bedai (Farewell to the bride)

The daughter of this house is now gone far away, married off, living in a far distant place, but what struck me with all these things is that her parents still seem to find her present, and find her around, identify themselves with the smell of hers that still lingers around.

Their old eyes still seem to see their tiny daughter’s crawling steps on the floor, the school kid  studying on the study table, the kid listening to the loud music playing on that stereo which is actually now silenced for years at stretch, their grown-up lass who was so excited to bring in her favourite friend to get him introduced…

This whole story of hers must be playing and replaying in front of their old eyes every day, every now and every then.

And, all this while, when she lives so far apart from them, they must have been remembering those beautiful days spent with their only daughter and living the golden days, catching slivering shades, but not fading in their memories.

Bou Bhaat - at the in laws

It must be very hard for the parents when their kids are grown and gone far, busy in their own lives, settled far away with far distances. At this old age, they are only those good memories that they live with and cherish every day.

Often, for some passing moments, a smile must be crossing their face when a flash of memory tickles them into smiles – that incidence of that first funny step that the tiny little kid took…

…Or, that day when she first called out ‘Daddy’ and attempted to speak for the first time…

…Or, that day when she wore that tiny cute little checkered skirt , that blue shirt and water bottle slung around her shoulder and strapped around a big bag double her size – ready to go to school,

Or, many such more…

What goes comes around

Now being a son myself living far off from my place, a parent myself with a tiny little girl who is taking those first little steps, making those first chuckles of sounds, I just wonder how good it is to be a parent and yet how heart-aching it is, when she will grow, find her love and go with him, he will make that promise of her life and livelihood to leave me behind…

Photographs by Amitabha Bose

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