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Thursday, May 26, 2011

THE FATE OF KALALAIMA - a short story by Col.(Retd.) Bijoy Sinha


-  Col.(Retd) Bijoy Sinha -

   Short Story translated by Bijoy Sinha 
( based on his self written story in Bishnupriya Manipuri titled "KALALAIMAR KOPAL"  
 published in his book "Shahidar Sharaddha Baro Katohan Yari" )
I met Kalalaima around ten years ago in her remote village Bitorkhul. I had gone there to attend the famous Manasi Durga Puja at my maternal uncle's house in the month of Chaitra. The Puja was organized by my uncle in response to my aunt's wishes. She had pledged to install an idol of the Durga Maa if the Goddess took away their troubles. Not much keen on these superstitious beliefs, I was persuaded to tag along by my mother who wanted to show off her 'Captain' son to her childhood friends and relatives.

       I had commissioned into the Army Service Corps from the Indian Military Academy after my graduation from Guwahati University. Being a commissioned officer, I was feeling proud of myself amongst the villagers who were hardly qualified and mostly unemployed. However keeping the maternal tag, every elder of the village showered affection towards me during my stay there. Whenever I was present in the crowd attending any function, I was given special attention by everyone.

       During Durga puja I saw Kalalaima detailed as a 'sevari' (the helping girl to the purohit) running around on errands for the various rituals of the Puja. At first sight, I was attracted towards her because of her charming face. She had all the beauty of a girl one can think of. Kalalaima with her look of trusting innocence and her lovely eyes and long hair greeted the environment around her. With her gait and smiling face she won the hearts of one and all assembled there. I had observed that most of the grown up boys were eager to have a conversation with her but she preferred to busy herself with her alloted work dutifully. Instinctively, but with much hesitation I looked at her and her innocent smile caught me off guard. I wanted to speak to her but she was too shy to speak to a stranger like me. Also she was too busy to give any attention to the boys gathered there. Those who wanted to befriend her were disappointed and left the scene. What I had observed that it was not the fault of the young boys, but it was rather Kalalaima's sensuous smile and innocent look that usually cast the spell. Kalalaima was hardly eighteen years old at that time. Frankly speaking, she was compared with an 'apsara', an exotic celestial dancer of heaven, by the villagers. Not only was she beautiful but  also was avidly active in the community services. No puja or village festival were complete without the active participation of Kalalaima. She was an embodiment of perfection.

     Soon my anxiety got the better of me and I could not resist myself enquiring about Kalalaima from my maternal aunt. Aunt told me that Kalalaima could not pursue her studies beyond high school owing to her poor background. At young age, kalalaima lost her father and her mother eloped with another man leaving the young child at the mercy of her sister. Her poor aunt could not shoulder the load of an additional child besides her three children and Kalalaima's education took a backseat. For the next few days, II observed Kalalaima in the same puja mandap and the more I saw her the more I had an urge to talk to her. But naturally coy girl that she was, she avoided me every time I was around her. One evening, I heard her singing the 'durga aarti' in praise of the Goddess. I was instantly fascinated by her sweet and melodious voice. Ultimately I mustered some courage and confided my liking of Kalalaima to my aunt. Unexpectedly my aunt was furious to hear my words and snubbed me instantly. She forbid me from mentioning Kalalaima's name again in this context at my maternal house.

“Kalalaima is cursed. She lost her father and her mother turned out to be of bad character. Moreover, she was born from an unsocial union of her parents who married in  the same gotra. How can an officer like you even think of her as a bride? However, if you proceed any further without listening to our advice you have to snap all ties with us”, my aunt retorted, “after all we have to stay with the society.”

I was taken aback. I could not antagonize my uncle's family as they bore all my educational  expenses during my college days at Guwahati. How can I hurt their sentiments for a girl I hardly knew?

I kept quiet and tried to erase the memory of Kalalaima from my mind forever. However, I came back from puja holidays with a heavy heart as I failed to visualize the fault of Kalalaima in being born to parents belonging to the same gotra or her mother's elopement.

Life moves on. Meanwhile I married a girl from a decent background as per my parent's wishes. Of course, I received a handsome dowry as per my new found status as an 'Army Major'. My honeymoon was happily spent in the hills of Nainital and Mussoorie.

Over the years I forgot Kalalaima and my life began to revolve around my family and my service. One day, I received a call from my aunt and uncle expressing their desire to see me and my children. I don't know why but I was very eager to visit my maternal uncle's place. I asked my wife and children and they readily agreed to visit the village.

I reached the village and met my maternal uncle after a gap of ten long years. My uncle was very happy to see my children. My wife and children became busy talking to my uncle and aunt about the village life.

In the evening I went around the village to meet the people. There I saw Kalalaima carrying a pitcher and going to the village tubewell to fetch water. Seeing her I was dumbstruck. The same gait, the same beautiful and charming face and the ever present smile on her lips. But she was wearing a white sari. “Is she a widow?”, I wondered. I came back with a heavy heart and enquired my aunt about Kalalaima.

Aunt heaved a sigh and told, “Don't talk about Kalalaima,that unfortunate girl. She was married to an army soldier. The kargil war broke out and her husband was killed in the war. She was married only for one month. Her husband lost his life at a young age due to her cursed fate.”

“Government has offered her a job in Shillong but her in-laws did not allow her to take the job. How can they allow their young daughter-in-law to take a job and stay in a far away city alone? In fact, they were asking for a job for their second son in the army but army has provided a hefty amount to the shaheed's family. She is now staying with her in-laws and serving them happily. After all she has to abide by the misfortune dictated by the almighty. You know, one cannot fight the destiny.”

I could not resist myself and intervened my aunt, “Please don't blame her fate. It is all nonsense; it was no fault of her's at all. Infact, she is young and she should remarry to settle down herself again.”

“Do not talk stupid things here. Who will marry the widow? It may happen in your Bombay or Bangalore but not here in our village. We have to safeguard our culture and traditions”, my aunt, who was a lecturer in a local college, retorted back to me.

“You mean to say the teachings of great men like Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar and Raja Ram Mohan Roy were all wrong? Their efforts to reform the society were meaningless?”, I asked my aunt in surprise, “Is there an embargo in our scriptures about widow-remarriage?”

“Thank god, you had adhered to our advice that time otherwise god knows what would have happened to you and your family. It was clearly written in Kalalaima's horoscope that anyone marrying her will be doomed. How can people ignore it? Now see, the result is in front of everyone.” my aunt tried to convince me.

I wanted to contradict my aunt but my wife signaled me to keep quiet. I also thought there was no point in arguing with my aunt whose thinking cannot be changed at this stage. She had grown up believing in the malpractices and numerous superstitions prevailing in the society. So I surrendered and stopped arguing. My uncle intervened and said slowly, “There is no use arguing, son. Your aunt has lived her whole life in this village and blindly follows the social traditions. It is upto your generation to think and reform the society. Only proper education can bring an end to the evils of ignorance. A time will come when everything will change. Let us hope for the best.”
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Sunday, May 22, 2011

BABU PADMASENOR NINGSHINGE : বাবু পদ্মাসেনর নিংশিঙে - by Brojendra Kumar Sinha

- Brojendra Kumar Sinha -

Source Book : PADMASEN SINHA SMARAK GRANTHA , a Souvenir published 
by POURI,  Moulvibazar, Bangladesh 

[Mi shokstabdo. Era pou ehan huntow buliya asha nakorechilu. Babu Padmasen Singha omatik chalak kore kaam loi nakoria gelgata! Mi 1996 saale Sushil Kumar Singha'i ayojan koresil seminar ahanat Rabindranathor goje boktrita ahan denarka amontrit oya Bangladeshe gesiluga.................... Read more from below ......
 (Click the image for large view) ]

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KAVITAT SHABDOR MISHIL, PROTIBAAD BARO PROTIRODH : কবিতাত শব্দর মিশিল প্রতিবাদ বার প্রতিরোধ - An Artcile by Kanchan Boron Sinha

- Kanchan Boron Sinha -

Source Book : NUMIUS (a Souvenir) published on the occassion of GoldenJubilee celebration 
by Numius, a Socio-cultural-literary organisation, Dullabcherra, Assam in 2006

[Click the image for large view]

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