Chapter 3 I Am Bride
Misry had nothing to do. After her last fight with Bheeru, she knew he wouldn’t let her play with any of the children in the village, let alone with his goat kids. After all, it was on Bheeru’s recommendation that the village kids allowed Misry to join the gang but now that he was furious with her, she was certain there was no use going there for few days. They wouldn’t play with her.
She looked out of the window. It was pretty bright outside. Summers in this part of the country were hot and humid. Her intention of talking to the Jawans on sentry duty at the camp gate was also not very tempting at this hour. She turned her attention to Raju.
As usual, Raju was busy with his comics: Phantom, Bahadur, and Batul The Great, one of the favorites of the Bengali teenagers. He had a huge collection of them and carried them wherever he went. Misry envied him for this. She was too young to read on her own and Raju didn’t even allow her to touch his comic books. Sometimes she would persuade him to let her clean the box and then she got a chance to hold them. She would flip through the pages lazily looking at the comic strips and trying to understand the story before neatly keeping them back in the box. How she wished Raju would tell her the stories.
Nevertheless, her quota of stories was fulfilled by her father. Every night while putting her to bed he would narrate a beautiful story. Sometimes of his childhood or his BSF stories or one of the stories he had read. They were always full of adventures and Misry would always wonder if she would ever get a chance to have any at all. In her father’s absence, it was her mother’s duty to tell her a story. Her stories mostly were folklore or mythology that Misry could connect with very easily.
However, her concern as of now was how to kill time. She had nothing to do. She went to the bedroom to look for her mother. Madhavi had just come out of her bath and was draping her saree. Misry watched her mother, her eyes wide with admiration. The lady always looked so fresh and beautiful after her bath. The little girl stood beside the dressing table watching Madhavi , who wiped her wet hair with a dry towel.
“Misry, What are you looking at Shona?” Madhavi asked.
“Ma, you have such a long hair. When will my hair grow long?” Misry replied, looking at her pigtail in the mirror.
“You have to take care of it, sweetheart. Brush it every day, oil it and keep it clean. Then you too will have long hair, just like mine,” Madhavi replied.
“But it hurts when I brush, Ma,” Misry complained.
“Hmm, I know. It’s because you have curly hair, Sona. But you have to take pains for any gains you want, dear.” Madhavi advised.
Madhavi brushed her wet hair. The drops of water fell on the floor. A few fell on Misry’s face too. She put out her tongue to catch them. Then she watched Madhavi make a small vermillion dot on her forehead using a small silver pin. Then she put a small amount of vermilion in the parting of her hair, just above her forehead.
“Ma, why do you do that every day?” Misry asked.
“This is a ritual which Hindu married women carry out for their husband. When you get married, you will do it too,” Madhavi replied.
“I don’t want to get married, Ma,” pat came the answer.
“Why not sweetheart? Every girl has to marry one day.” Madhavi reasoned.
“I won’t. I don’t want to leave you and Daddy,” Misry replied.
“But marriage is a great experience in a woman’s life. She gets lots of new sarees, jewellery, gifts, and many more things for her wedding.” Madhavi explained.
“And what else?” Misry’s interest was aroused.
“She is dressed up like a princess, in a lovely red banarasi saree that has a broad zari border. Her hair is done in a bun with lots of pearl pins. She wears a golden tikli, on the parting of her hair that beautifully adorns her forehead just above the vermilion dot. A nose pin which has a chain that hooks into her hair on one side, bangles, a big necklace and earring set too. Her feet and palms are covered with designs made with alta. She puts on a red dupatta and a white crown on her head to complete her bridal makeup. She looks the most beautiful on that day and everyone just keeps looking at her.”
“Were you also dressed like that for your wedding?”
“Yes, dear. And I looked gorgeous that day. Your daddy could not take his eyes off me. People said that I looked like Ma Lakshmi Devi.”
“Ma, will I also dress up like that on my wedding day?”She was curious to know.
“Of course my darling! Even better than that.”
“Fine, I will also marry,” she said. Then, tilting her head to one side she asked, “But who will I marry, Ma?”
“We will choose the boy for you, dear?”
“Fine! But I will have to do a check upon him first.” Misry sounded little doubtful.
“Why? What do you want to check?” Madhavi asked.
“What if he doesn’t know how to climb trees or swim in the river? Our team will be a loser team then!” She said slowly, sounding concerned.
Madhavi smiled and said, “Oh! We will find an all-rounder boy then. And you will both make the best team ever.”
“Promise.” Madhavi assured her and went out of the room to do her daily chants and prayer.
Misry stood alone silently, watching her own reflection in the mirror, deep in thought.
Later in the evening.
Pallavi was sitting in the verandah. She loved sipping her evening tea enjoying the cool summer breeze from the river flowing beside their camp. Amazingly, in this part of the country, even in the summer with no electricity there was hardly any need for the ceiling fan. The vegetation and the water bodies surrounding the area were sufficient enough to keep the rooms airy and cool.
Pallavi was reading her father’s letter that had arrived in the mail in the afternoon. Just then Anurag, who had just returned after a match of volleyball with his boys, came to the balcony and sat down in the cane chair, next to her’s.
“So, what has your father written in his letter?” asked Anurag stretching his feet. He knew about his in-law’s letter since it was addressed to him. He hadn’t opened it but had sent it home to Madhavi.
Pallavi blushed hearing the question. She looked up at Madhavi who had just joined them.
Madhavi handed over the towel to Anurag and replied, “Baba’s written that the groom’s family have liked Pallavi’s details and the matrimonial photograph which they have sent forward to their son by registered post. They are now waiting for their son’s approval.
Anurag smiled at Pallavi and gave thumbs up to her.
Just then the orderly, Goura, appeared with lemon juice for Anurag.
Anurag wiped himself with the towel and picked up the glass of juice from the tray.
As Goura turned to go Madhavi instructed him to put on the generator.
In a few minutes the loud sound of the generator started from the backyard of the house illuminating the house with lights.
Misry had finished her glass of milk that her mother had given her before going out to the verandah. This evening too she didn’t go out to play with the kids and spent her time riding her bicycle in the courtyard. But now with the room illuminated Misry quickly made up a plan while the rest of the family sat outside in the verandah gossiping.
She put on her half saree, applied vermilion on her forehead and head partition, put on the lipstick and blusher. Then she took out her imitation jewellery set and put it on. It had a golden tikli, nose pin with chain on one side, necklace set, bangles, and anklet. She did some designs on her feet and palms with the Alta. Finally she finished by putting a red dupatta over her head. By the time she finished the room was a mess.
When Madhavi entered the room to put out fresh clothes for Anurag from the wardrobe to change into after his bath, she was in for a shock. The floor was smeared with the Alta and talcum powder while her makeup kit lay disarranged on the dressing table. The vermillion case had fallen upside down on the floor with her only lipstick shade smeared in it.
Furiously she shouted at Misry to punish her. But her heart melted when she saw her daughter.
There on the middle of the bed Misry sat, dressed as a Bengali bride.
“Ma, ami bou. Do I look like Ma Lakshmi Devi?”Misry asked innocently.
The little girl’s effort stole Madhavi’s heart. Her voice chocked as she said, “Yes, my sweetheart. You look more than that, My Durga Ma. Wait I will call Daddy”. She went out of the room to call Anurag.
When Anurag came in the room he was speechless. Instantly he visualized that one day she will be married off and go away from him. He took out the camera and clicked her pictures. These memories will remain with him forever.
Madhavi hugged her daughter and said, “So now you are going to leave us?”
The question confused Misry. “Why Ma?”
“Because married girls have to go away to their husband’s house,” answered Madhavi.
“I am never leaving you and Daddy. I shall take you along wherever I go,” Misry answered without any doubts.
Anurag and Madhavi started laughing and hugged her again.
Madhavi whispered, “Don’t GROW UP MESSY.”