A soul piercing story by Rhituparna Chakraborty that not only ignites our emotions but also poses a basic question to the society-a question that has no answer.
Anu opened all the drawers of the dressing table. There, the toe rings were right there. Where were the red bangles? Should be somewhere in the small drawers of the closet. Anu searched frantically. No, they were not there. Damn! Where could they be? Anu went on to search the drawers adjacent to the bed side table. Phew! What a relief! There they were. The red bangles were there. Anu took the toe rings and the red bangles and kept them aside. Now, the Mangalsutra!
Anu yelled, “Maaaaa… Maaa…”
Anu’s mother Rano came rushing, “What is it, Anu?”
Anu asked, “Where is the Mangalsutra?”
Rano looked at Anu distressed and said, “Why do you need that my child?”
Anu replied irked, “I don’t have time for questions and answers. Where is it? It’s necessary.”
Rano looked at Anu bewildered and said, “Anu….”
Anu looked at Rano bitterly and said, “If you cannot help me, that’s fine. Don’t try to reason with me. I can’t take it.”
While Rano stood still not knowing what to say, Anu searched through all the drawers helter-skelter and finally found the Mangalsutra. Before Rano could say something, Anu kept the Mangalsutra along with the red bangles and the toe rings.
Anu then asked Rano, “I need red bindis…”
Rano’s sister Shalu just came in. She heard what Anu said.
Shalu said, “Anu….why…I mean, why do you need red bindis?”
Anu replied agitated, “Shalu Maasi, I am not here for question answer rounds. Can you give me a packet of red bindis? Or else, I am going to go out and get one.”
Shalu said, “No, you don’t have to go out. I have a packet. I will get that.”
Shalu went and got a packet of bindis.
Anu looked at the Bindis and said, “These are not red, Shalu Maasi. I need red…. RED…. Do you see a black bindi here? You know what wearing a black bindi means? You know right? So why on earth did you get me a black bindi? Give me RED BINDIS, NOW!”
Rano looked at Anu with tears dripping from her eyes. Shalu patted Rano’s shoulder and went out of the room and came back with a packet of red bindis.
Anu then said, “Now I need to take a shower. I will see you all at the terrace.”
Rano choked on her tears and said, “Anu, you should eat something now…..”
Anu looked at Rano stunned and said,“Eat something? Did you just say, eat something? Do you know what it means to break the Karwa Chauth fast? You know, right? Still….you are asking me to do that! I can’t believe that I live with such loving family members.”
Saying that Anu slammed the bathroom door open and went for a shower.After shower, Anu got dressed, put on the toe rings, wore the Mangalsutra, put a nice red bindi and went upstairs to the terrace with a sieve. Shalu, Rano, Anu’s dad Manohar and Shalu’s husband Hitesh were already there. The moment they saw Anu, they were dumbfounded.
Anu did not bother. Taking the sieve Anu looked at the moon, said a silent prayer and sipped some water.
Anu was about to leave when Rano said, “Where are you going Anu?”
Anu replied nonchalantly, “You don’t know?”
Shalu came and said, “Anu, we know. But take off those before going?”
Anu looked at Shalu with blood shot red eyes and said, “Take off what?”
Shalu was quiet.
Anu yelled, “TAKE OFF WHAT?? THIS MANGALSUTRA, THE TOE RINGS, THE BINDI???? WHY???? THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO KEEP THE HUSBAND ALIVE, ARE’NT THEY? IF THE WIFE DOES NOT WEAR THESE, THE HUSBAND MAY DIE. IF THE WIFE DOES NOT FAST IN KARWACHAUTH THE HUSBAND MAY DIE, RIGHT??? YOU MADE VAISHALI WEAR ALL OF THESE? DIDN’T YOU? YOU MADE VAISHALI FAST IN KARWACHAUTH, DIDN’T YOU? SO I, ANURAG MEHRA, HUSBAND OF VAISHALI MEHRA IS HALE AND HEARTY. I SURVIVED THE ACCIDENT.”
Saying that Anurag knelt down, looked earnestly at his mother and aunty and said, “If wearing red bangles, red bindi, Mangalsutra, and following the Karwa Chauth rituals can keep a husband safe, why can’t they keep the wife safe? Why did my Vaishali get critically injured in the car crash? It’s all because I did not wear the toe rings. I did not wear a red bindi; I never adhered to any ritual in Karwa Chauth. It’s all because of me. If she dies, I am to be blamed. Why did you guys not let me follow ‘Shringar’ rituals? Why? If a husband’s life is dependent on his wife’s toe rings, why is it not the same for a wife? Why did you not make me wear toe rings so that I could have protected my wife! ”
Anurag sat on the floor, cried out loudly. Rano felt his pain. Everyone stood there quietly. They had no answers to Anurag’s questions. Their daughter- in-law was in death bed. Doctors had already said there was no hope. Anurag was in a heart wrenching state of mind. Vaishali meant the world to him. If only he could bring her back to this world…….
Read Also: The Colours Of Life
What's Your Reaction?
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/