Talking of a love story we mostly relate with Romeo & Juliet or a Laila Majnu. This Valentine’s day, Rhituparna Chakraborty shares a different love story from the Eastern state of Assam which has its own mythological value.
Usha woke up sweating profusely. She quickly took a bottle of water from the bedside table and gulped couple of sips. Her roommate Chitra was still awake working on her thesis. Seeing Usha, Chitra approached her and said, ‘Hey, are you okay?’ Usha wiped off the sweat from her face and said, ‘What a weird dream!’ Chitra asked concerned, ‘What dream!’ Usha replied, ‘Well, I saw this handsome guy in my dream, and he was so handsome that I could not take my eyes off him. I was about to propose him when my Dad locked me a room. And worse, Dad lit fire all around my room so that nobody could go in. I was so scared. I kept on screaming and then I woke up.’ Chitra laughed and said, ‘So finally you found someone, even if it was a dream. And why on earth would uncle lock you up and then put fire all around.’ Saying that Chitra laughed out loudly. She then continued, ‘You are turning 40 this year. If you find a suitable guy for yourself now, uncle will be more than happy to agree to that alliance.’ Usha replied irritated, ‘Yes I know. If I am 40, don’t forget you are 39. You too need to find someone for yourself.’ Chitra replied, ‘Naah! I am not going to get married. I am so done watching married couples fight. But I don’t mind attending your wedding.’ Usha replied, ‘Well, even you know that I am in no mood of getting married. But Dad just doesn’t want to give up. He keeps on bringing alliances. And at this age, all the alliances are about divorcees.’ Chitra said, ‘So? Aren’t divorcees humans? There could be some painful stories in their lives.’ Usha replied, ‘Oh come on Chitra, don’t judge me. It’s just that I have a mental block that divorces happen due to people being disloyal. And if a person can be disloyal in one relationship, he/she can be disloyal in the next relationship as well.’ Chitra replied, ‘Nothing like that. You need to stop judging people. Divorces sometimes are mutual due to career reasons and family problems as well. Not every divorce is about disloyalty.’ Usha replied, ‘Hmm, maybe you are right. But, hey, I have an idea.’ Chitra looked at Usha confused, ‘What?’ Putting a pillow on her lap, Usha said, ‘You are a good artist. Based on the dream that I saw, draw a sketch of the person. Then I will take a proper photograph of that sketch. I will show that to Dad and tell Dad that I love him, and I will marry only him and no one else. That way, he won’t bring any more alliance.’ Chitra thought for a while and said, ‘And you think your Dad, a retired IPS officer, will buy this crap story of yours.’ Usha said, ‘Well of course he won’t. He will try to find out all the information about this guy and eventually he will give up. And then anyway, I am trying for a job abroad. I will take that job and go. After couple of years, it will be too late for me to get married. I will then come and take mom and Dad with me. This marriage chapter will be over then.’ Chitra said, ‘And what will you tell your parents when they will readily agree for this alliance?’ Usha replied, ‘Well, I will tell them that I like this guy, but he is so busy in his career that he does not want to marry soon. So, he won’t marry me now and I won’t marry anyone else. That’s it.’ Chitra replied, ‘This is a super dumb story. I won’t be a part of it.’ Usha said, ‘You don’t have to be a part of it. You just draw a sketch.’ Chitra replied, ‘I have to work on my thesis now and so do you.’ Usha held Chitra’s wrist and said, ‘Please, please, please, all you need to do is make a sketch. Promise, I won’t tell Dad that you know anything about it.’ Chitra replied yawning, ‘Okay! But not now. I will do it tomorrow.’
Next day after class, the girls came to their hostel room and started working on the plan. Usha said, ‘So this guy in my dream had a straight edged, sharp long nose. He had wavy hair…ummm… perfectly trimmed sideburns and they were grey. He had this heartwarming smile, perfect lips, no moustache….and as he walked towards me, I felt his warmth. He was around 6 feet tall, and he was as fit as a fiddle. He was wearing a pair of blue denim trousers and a plain blue full sleeve shirt. Oh….he was so good looking.’ Chitra listened to Usha and tried to figure out how the guy looked like. She then said thoughtfully, ‘Strange!’ Usha asked, ‘What’s strange?’ Chitra replied, ‘No…nothing, I mean…such a good-looking guy…. he can exist only in imagination…’ Usha responded, ‘Yes you are right. He can exist only in imagination.’ Chitra kept on sketching whole heartedly and after some time she showed the picture to Usha. Usha looked at the picture and exclaimed, ‘Whoa! This guy is ……. .’ Chitra asked concerned, ‘This guy is what?’ Usha replied, ‘He is so handsome…’ Chitra said, ‘Pheww….but does he look like the guy you saw in your dream?’ Usha giggled, ‘Very much yes….just that my dream guy did not have that dimple. But how come you added this dimple on his right cheek?’ Chitra responded, ‘I don’t know…..I mean, I was just sketching and this dimple just happened.’ Usha said, ‘Chitraaaa, you are a darling.’ Saying that Usha kissed Chitra’s hand and said, ‘You are my bestie and you prove it all the time.’ Chitra said, ‘Hahahha, yes, we are best friends forever. But what are you going to tell your Dad about this imaginary guy? His name? His profession?’
Usha thought for a while and said, ‘I will say…..I will say he is a research scholar and he travels a lot. Whenever he is here, I will make him meet Dad and mom.’ Chitra said, ‘You think they will believe you?’ Usha replied, ‘Of course not. I know my Dad. Nonetheless, this is one way I can postpone my wedding.’
The holidays began in two weeks and Usha and Chitra went home. Usha insisted on Chitra staying with her for some days. Chitra had to agree. She first went to her hometown to meet her parents and then she came to Usha’s home.
During breakfast, Usha’s Dad, Mr. Sailen Barua, asked Chitra, ‘Have you met Gautam?’ Chitra looked at Mr. Sailen Barua confused and said, ‘Gautam?’ Immediately, Usha added, ‘Chitra, Dad is asking about Gautam…. Gautam, whose photo I showed him…..’ Chitra coughed and said, ‘Uh..huh…’ Before Chitra could say anything, Usha said, ‘Of course she has. She is my best friend. How could she not know?’ Sailen Barua then said munching on his slice of bread, ‘So, where does he live?’. Chitra did not know what to say. She quickly said whatever came to her mind, ‘T….Tezpur….’ . ‘Great! Tezpur is so close by. This Sunday, we are meeting him.’ Usha almost choked on her food and Chitra spilled her glass of water. Sailen Barua looked at them and said, ‘You girls okay?’ Rupali Barua, Usha’s mom called the house-help and asked her to clean the spilled water. Rupali then said, ‘So, I have this beautiful Mekhela Saador. Usha, you will wear that. Chitra, you fix the meeting with Gautam because Usha has been postponing this meeting forever. Call him home. Okay?’ Groping for words Chitra replied, ‘B…b….but Aunty…..Gautam…. he is …..I mean ….he is very busy. Not sure if he can come this Sunday.’ Rupali smiled and said, ‘No problem, if he can’t come, we can go to his place.’ Usha responded fast, ‘No Maa, Deuta….. he…. is super busy.’ Rupali said sternly, ‘Usha, you stay out of this. Chitra will arrange the meeting.’ Chitra kept quiet. There was no way out and there was no way she could escape. She said a silent prayer and replied, ‘Pheww….maybe, I was made for this….’
Next Sunday, Sailen Barua, Rupali Barua, Usha, Chitra, all of them got ready early in the morning. Usha wore a peach and golden Mekhela Chadar. She was around 5 feet 7 inches tall, and she was fair. The color of the mekhela chadar reflected on her skin. She had some strands of grey hair which she left as they were. She wore a pair of block heels with transparent straps. The pink bindi added to the beauty of her oval pretty face. The kohl in her tiny eyes and the pretty pink lipstick made her look ambrosial. Her wavy shoulder length hair with a slight burgundy shade glistened in the sunshine. The tiny diamond earrings on her earlobes glittered. The gold bangles in her slender wrists added to the glow of her skin. She had draped the mekhela chadar tightly with the soft skin around her naval and waist gleaming. The tiny heart shaped pendent found its perfect place on the pleats of the ‘Chadar’ right above her bosom. Usha looked stunning.
Before they boarded the car, Usha told Chitra, ‘Where on earth are we going and, what the hell! Look at me getting ready for an imaginary guy.’ Chitra replied clenching her teeth, ‘You got me into this mess. I have no clue how to get out of this. Trust me Usha, I feel like killing you but at this point I must get us out of this mess. You idiot.’ Usha held Chitra’s wrist, ‘Just this time…. save me this time…’ Chitra said, ‘Fine then. Let me do what I have to do. You keep quiet.’
Sailen Barua told Chitra, ‘Tell the driver the address.’ Chitra told the driver, ‘We are going to Agnigarh.’ Sailen Barua replied, ‘Aha! That’s a beautiful place. Good! We can meet Gautam there and after that we can go somewhere and sit comfortably and talk.’ Chitra nodded, ‘Hmm uncle.’
The car moved, Usha knew Chitra was in a fit of rage and if she asked Chitra anything, Chitra might wring her neck. Everyone was quiet throughout the drive. Sailen Barua said, ‘Do you know the history of Agnigarh?’ Chitra said, ‘Umm yes…somewhat.’ Sailen Barua said, ‘So Agnigarh, Agni means fire and Garh means hilll. It’s a beautiful hillock located in Tezpur. According to Hindu mythology, this was built by Banasura. Banasura had constructed this fort for his daughter. And you know why? Because his daughter had fallen in love with someone Banasura did not like. So, he wanted to lock her up in this fort with fire all around so that nobody could reach her. Hence the name Agnigarh. And that person with whom Banasura’s daughter had fallen in love with, was none other than Lord Krishna’s grandson. Banasura had imprisoned Lord Krishna’s grandson as well. Although Lord Krishna was ready for this marriage, Banasura was against this. And hence a war followed. Banasura was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, so, Lord Shiva’s followers and Lord Krishna’s followers, all of them fought this massive battle. In this, blood bath followed, and rivers of blood flowed. Thereupon, the place came to be known as ‘Tezpur’. Tez in Assamese means blood. Tezpur means city of blood. In this intense war, when death spread all over, Lord Brahma requested Lord Shiva and Lord Krishna to stop this bloodbath. Lord Krishna made Lord Shiva understand that Banasura was not right in imprisoning his grandson. After that a discussion took place and finally Banasura agreed to the marriage.’ And now Agnigarh is a beautiful tourist attraction with stone sculptures depicting this love story.’
Chitra replied, ‘So uncle, love stories are usually complex, right?’ Sailen Barua laughed and said, ‘Not always. For example, in my daughter’s case, I am not against her choice.’ Usha muttered to herself, ‘Yes, and today when there would be no one waiting for me at Agnigarh, our home will become a battlefield and eventually our home will become the city of blood.’ Chitra squeezed Usha’s wrist and whispered, ‘Stop murmuring. As if there is not enough trouble.’
The car reached Agnigarh. The Baruas and Chitra went upstairs. Rupali asked Chitra, ‘Is Gautam here as yet?’ Chitra said, ‘Yes, he is here. He is waiting at the corner ahead. Let’s go there.’ Usha looked at Chitra confused and whispered, ‘What’s next?’ Chitra replied sternly, ‘Just follow me.’ Usha knew it was better to be quiet and follow Chitra. The Baruas followed Chitra and they reached a corner adjacent to a sculpture. Chitra took her phone and dialed a number and said, ‘Come! We are here.’ Usha was perplexed. And then in few seconds, they saw a gentleman walking towards them. He was wearing a pair of blue denim trousers, a plain blue, full sleeve shirt. With a height of around 6 feet, he had crew cut wavy hair, sharp features and a flat abdomen with sturdy structure. As he came closer, all of them saw his smile. It was full of warmth. He had a dimple on his right cheek. Usha gasped. She looked at Chitra. Chitra winked. Usha looked at that guy and then at Chitra and she was at a loss of words. This guy looked exactly like the sketch Chitra had made. Sailen Barua and Rupali Barua were elated to see the gentleman. Sailen Barua smiled at him and said, ‘So, you are Gautam?’ The gentleman smiled, looked at Usha and then again looked at Sailen Barua and said, ‘Um…Usha calls me Gautam, but my name is Aniruddha. Aniruddha Mahanta.’ Rupali replied, ‘Really! What a coincidence! While coming here, in the car, we were talking about the history of Agnigarh and the love story of Banasura’s daughter and Lord Krishna’s grandson.’ Rupali looked at Chitra and Usha and said, ‘And did you know Banasura’s daughter’s name was Usha and Lord Krishna’s grandson’s name was Aniruddha.’ Chitra giggled and said, ‘Also aunty, in that story, Usha’s friend was Chitralekha. Usha had seen Aniruddha in her dream and Chitralekha had made a sketch of Aniruddha based on Usha’s description. Since Chitralekha had some powers, she was the one who had brought Aniruddha to Usha. I have read the story Aunty.’ Sailen Barua laughed and said, ‘Oh my my…. this is so wonderful….’ Usha stared at Chitra and then at Aniruddha. Aniruddha noticed that and said, ‘Usha, shall we go to our favorite restaurant? All of us can sit there comfortably and talk.’ Usha replied, ‘Uh…huh… yes…..’ Aniruddha told Mrs. and Mr. Barua, ‘Aunty, uncle, please come. I will drive you guys to the restaurant. Usha and Chitra can come in your car.’ Sailen Barua replied, ‘Well, let’s do this! Usha and Chitra can come in your car. I and Rupali will follow you guys in our car.’ Aniruddha said, ‘Okay!’
The girls boarded Aniruddha’s car. Chitra insisted on Usha sitting on the passenger seat. All this while Aniruddha could not take his eyes off Usha. As the car moved, Chitra laughed loudly and said, ‘Usha, meet my cousin Aniruddha. He is a surgeon by profession. The other day when you had asked me to make a sketch, I never knew coincidences could be that strong. I mean, the way you described your dream guy, in my mind, I could see Aniruddha. And since he had a dimple, I added one. I did my part. I got Usha her Aniruddha, and I got Aniruddha his Usha. Now whether Usha and Aniruddha want to be together, that, Usha and Aniruddha will decide. I had prepared Aniruddha for this meeting. He was not ready initially, but the moment he saw Usha’s picture on my phone, he agreed. Also, Aniruddha is a surgeon and not a research scholar. His nick name is not Gautam either. These lies, Usha will cover when it comes to telling Uncle and Aunty. I did my part.’ While driving and focusing on the road, Aniruddha smiled. He liked Usha. But then, this was a show meant to be put up for Usha’s parents. He was not sure if Usha liked him.
At the restaurant, when Sailen Barua asked Aniruddha, ‘So, what are your plans for your future’, Aniruddha knew, this was the right time. Well, love stories were usually unplanned and now after seeing Usha, this was love at first sight for him. He was 44 and if he delayed this, it might be too late. He looked at Usha and then he took a deep breath and said, ‘Uncle, I would like to marry your daughter.’ Sailen Barua smiled and said, ‘I was waiting to hear that.’ Aniruddha added, ‘But, Usha’s decision matters too.’ Usha blushed, looked at Aniruddha and said, ‘Well, sometimes some stories happen out of the blue, nonetheless, they are perhaps weaved in heaven. And such stories should be lived. I….umm…I… will be happy to live this story.’
And then followed 6 months of courtship followed by a simple wedding. Aniruddha and Usha were made for each other. Well, yes, Chitra played Cupid here. But yes, marriages are surely made in heaven and lived on earth.
Happy Valentine’s day dear readers………
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Rhituparna is a content developer and soft skills trainer. An ardent fan of diaspora writers like JhumpaLahiri, she has written around 199 stories so far, some of which have been published in The Sentinel. She writes a blog https://rheetuparnachakkravorty.medium.com/