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Wisdom From a Hysterical Incident

Wisdom From a Hysterical Incident

Rihaa watching a man praying to a pillar

A must-read short story by the talented writer Rhituparna Chakraborty based on a girl visiting her hometown after a long time where her regular stint with a hilarious incident from a seemingly insane man leads to an inspiring insight

Visiting her hometown in the wintry days was very rare for Rihaa. She had a specific time of the year when she liked visiting that place. That time was April. She loved that month because the weather would be very subtle with rains drenching the parched earth and emanating a fragrance she would want to devour. And then the very next day, the sun would shine brightly making the raindrops in the leaves glisten. It was in this month that the sounds of ‘dhol’ and ‘pepa’ would resonate in the air with young dancers spreading joy with the merry and graceful ‘Bihu’ dance.

Yes, April meant ‘Bihu’ and ‘Bihu’ meant bliss for Rihaa. That’s the time of the year when Rihaa would take out her treasured ‘Mekhela Sadors’ and wear them. She would adorn a red bindi, wear gold bangles and admire herself in the mirror.

Her mother would laugh and say, ‘Imaan bhaal pao toi sador mekhela! Keijur maan eibaar loi jaabi. Sador mekhela bhaal ke pindhibo xiki lobi. Olop tight ke pindhibi. Tetiya bhaal dekhe.’ (You love Sador Mekhela so much, don’t you! This time, buy some and take them with you. And learn how to wear. Always remember, sador mekhela should be wrapped tight. That way you the dress and the person, look more pretty.’)

Rihaa is a part of the three-piece  Axomiya traditional dress worn with Sador Mekhela. It is a part of the Axomiya bridal apparel.

This year, the pandemic made things hard for everyone. Rihaa had planned to visit her hometown twice, but she had to cancel her visit thanks to the worthless virus. Finally, she decided, she could not wait for ‘April’. She would visit in November itself.

The moment the airplane started descending, she looked out of the window. Diwali lights in every household made the evening beam bright. As she stepped out of the airplane, she smiled and thought of her home, how her parents will react on seeing her, the bliss of meals cooked by mom, a place where she could be herself without the fear of being judged; that feeling itself was priceless.

She picked up her baggage from the baggage carousel and booked a cab. She could feel a slight pain on her forehead. She knew this was the onset of her migraine attack. By the time she reached home, this mild pain would become a throbbing headache and would last till the next day. She immediately popped a painkiller in her mouth and swallowed with a gulp. She could not afford to ruin her first day with her parents.

The traffic was terrible. The entire road was clogged because of bridge construction. The never-ending sounds of cars honking made her headache worse. She waited for the painkiller to work. She looked at her watch. It was almost 45 minutes since she had left the airport. Had there been no traffic, she would have reached her home by now.

The painkiller began its work and by the time the pain vanished, Rihaa was at her home. Her dad was waiting downstairs. She hugged him tight and rushed upstairs to meet her mom. Her mom Raji knew Rihaa’s love for tea with milk and sugar made with an essence of bay leaf. She had just kept that tea ready in the flask when she saw Rihaa.

Riha wrapped her arms around Raji’s shoulders and said, ‘It’s so nice to be home Maa. I missed you and Papa so much.’ Raji patted Rihaa’s cheek and said, ‘I know sweetheart. It has been 2 and a half years.’ Rihaa went to he window of the living room and looked out and said, ‘Yes Maa.’ pointing to the railway track at a visible distance from the window, Rihaa said, ‘I miss the sound of the trains as well. And not forget the view of the blissful garden from this window. I am so thankful to our neighbours for this soulful garden with the vibrant flowers brightening up everyone’s day. I miss my morning cup of tea sitting here, soaking up some warm sun, treating my eyes to the beauty of the blossoms in the garden and looking at passers-by either rushing to work or taking a walk or the busy hawkers hoping to sell something and earn a little to satiate their hungry stomachs.’

Rihaa woke up early the next day. Morning dawns early here, and the sunsets by 4:45 p.m. Rihaa went to the kitchen, made a cup of tea for herself, went to her favourite spot. She sat on the sofa beside the living room window overlooking the garden, the busy little street and the railway track. The weather was somewhat chilly. She kept the tea on the table in front of her and went to get a shawl from her mom. Rihaa had a round moon-shaped face with a tiny yet straight-edged nose. Her black rectangular glasses would slip occasionally to her nose and she would need to fix it often. With a height of 5 feet 6 inches and a somewhat plump structure, Rihaa felt, she should shed some weight to look better. Nonetheless, she loved food and that’s what stopped her from reaching her weight loss goal. After wrapping her mom’s pink shawl, she felt cosy. She then took her cup of tea and began looking outside the window.

She could see people engrossed in their morning walk schedule. She saw a couple, maybe in their early 60s, diligently walking. ‘Perhaps they have health issues…. Or maybe they want to lose weight….’, Rihaa thought. She then smiled to herself and said, ‘It’s fun watching people from this spot.’ She finished her cup of tea when she suddenly saw something. She looked again. She found it amusing. She laughed aloud and went back to the kitchen, washed her teacup and watched the scene from her kitchen window again. She giggled and went back to her room.

The next morning she woke up early again next morning. She took her cup of tea and sat at her favourite spot again. She devoured the sight of the garden, watched people going for their morning walks and then after some time, she saw the funny sight again. She laughed and then went back to the kitchen and watched the scene again while washing her teacup. Just then, Raji came to the kitchen and saw Rihaa laughing alone. She asked, ‘What happened! You are laughing alone.’ Trying to control her laughter, Rihaa said, ‘You will laugh too. However, you have to watch that scene to know what it is. If I narrate it, you won’t find it funny. Wake up early tomorrow, and I will show you.

The following day Rihaa woke up early again. She made her cup of tea and sat beside the window. She waited for the ‘scene’. She shouted, ‘Maa, come here quick. Come come.’ Raji came. Rihaa giggled and pointed out to a man outside. Laughing out loudly, Rihaa said, ‘Look at that man and see what he does.’ Raji looked out. She saw a man. He was thin. He had a cloth hobo satchel bag hung on his shoulder. Walking with wobbly feet, he came close to the neighbours’ garden, went close to the pillar adjacent to the gate, took off his slippers, joined his hands and prayed to the pillar. He then walked away. Seeing that, Rihaa laughed and said,

‘Did you see that Maa? That drunkard, he always does this. He can’t even stand properly. Why does he have to drink early in the morning? He then prays to the pillar and then he walks away. Praying to a pillar! Imagine! ’ Laughing nonstop, Rihaa said, ‘And Maa, the funny part is, I have seen him coming back in the afternoon. God knows where he goes. He can’t even walk properly. Why does he even drink?’

Raji looked at Rihaa and said, ‘Let me get my cup of tea.’ Rihaa laughed and said, ‘You did not find it funny?’ Raji replied, ‘Let me get my tea and then I will tell you.’

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Raji went to the kitchen, got her cup of tea, sat beside Rihaa and said, ‘Well, that gentleman’s name is Dr Devaraj Sharma. He is a great litterateur. He used to write poetry and fiction. And every day, he would go to the library, read and come. He must have read a colossal number of books. He would always walk to the library. On his way, he would offer prayers at our temple upstairs. He would not come upstairs, but he would take off his slippers, join his hands and offer prayers from he road below. He is now in his late 60s. He and his wife live in the lane behind this street. They are childless. As he aged, he had some neurological issues. Hence his body keeps on shivering most of the time. He somehow lost some sense of direction. Every time he walks this way, he somehow is unable to stop at our temple and stops at the pillar at our neighbour’s home, presuming that is the temple. He prays there and then walks to the library. All the same, he remembers that direction. He waits for the library to open. Spends time there and walks this way to his home.’

Rihaa listened to her mom, stunned. As she heard, her eyes went moist.

The following day, Rihaa woke up early as always and waited. The moment she saw the gentleman, she ran downstairs. She waited for the gentleman to finish his prayers at the pillar. She then greeted him and said, ‘Hello Uncle!’ The gentleman turned around weakly and looked at Rihaa confused. Rihaa said, ‘I see you Every day. My Maa said you write. So I thought I should talk to you. I love writing too.’

Dr Sharma spoke with his quivering voice, ‘To write well, you should read well. Go to the library and read often.’ He then took out a book from his bag, gave it to Rihaa and told her, ‘Read this book of mine. Hope you like it.’ Rihaa took the book, beamed and said, ‘Thank you so much, uncle.’ Rihaa then said, ‘I see you praying here often. Is there a reason behind that too?’

Dr Sharma replied, ‘Is there a world possible without a superpower and faith? For years this temple has given me wisdom and strength. Hence I always say thank you to the Super Power for guiding me throughout.’

Rihaa smiled and said, ‘You are right, uncle. It’s the faith that keeps us strong and going.’ Rihaa then took off her slippers and bowed at the pillar with folded hands. Dr Sharma patted Rihaa’s head and said, ‘God bless you.’

Rihaa came back home and rushed to Raji. Raji asked Rihaa, ‘Where had you been? That too so early in the morning?’ Rihaa showed the book in her hand to her mom and said, ‘Got this book from a great litterateur to hone my writing skills.’ Raji read the name of the book and the writer, looked at Rihaa, smiled. and said, ‘You never fail to make me proud.’ Rihaa smiled and said, ‘After all, it’s your faith in me that makes me stronger every day.’

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  • Rhituparna never ceases to amaze..i could smell the earth in April in Assam, feel the pleasant November sun and marvel at a description of a scholar battling Parkinson’s disease…the pathos is not lost in the readers about unintentionally laughing at an individual or rather, in today’s parlance, being judgemental with a feeling of regret to follow..

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