Someone is calling her name. Shreya cannot hear it properly. It is like she is floating within a deep blurred dark water. Those voices are coming from above the water, from too far and too faint. She feels nothing, but she is in deep peace.
Shreya can’t answer her even as she wants to. She is eventually feeling that it is not a single person around here, there are a bunch of people. They are talking to each other, but she can’t understand that properly. Her eyes are totally shut, but she feels a bright sunlight reflecting over her eyelids. She is slowly floating upwards on water level; she can now see the lights above the blue water. After some unsuccessful attempt, she can open her eyes a little. Slowly the vision is coming back. She is standing in front of a large mirror. Her entire body is covered with sea green colour algae. She is trying to remove this, but she can’t move her hand at all.
Someone keeps on shouting her name and repeatedly. Now it is more closure, now she can understand the words,
“Shreya, open your eyes. Shreya?”
Shreya now can hear properly; a lady is calling her name. She opens her eyes but immediately squeezes it because of bright light. She can hear now. Someone says,
“Please check the vitals.”
“All normal but pressure is falling not stabilised yet.”
One lady asks again Shreya,
“Open your eyes, Shreya?”
Shreya finally opens her eyes completely. She is getting her senses back. She is lying over the operation theatre bed. In overhead some big shining steel plates are hanging which reflect like a mirror. A sea green apron covered her body. She is here for her abortion and by now it is done. She lost her Anisha. As the effect of anaesthesia is fading out from her brain, more her heart getting burned. She just killed her own daughter, her own Anisha. Anisha didn’t even know why she was forced to die before her birth. What was her fault? Shreya says in her mind,
“Please forgive me, Anisha. I am not eligible to be your other. I could not save you, my daughter. Please forgive me. Forgive me, please.”
This time Shreya does not cry, a fire of pain already evaporated all the tears. Her eyes are dry as a desert. Too much pain does not melt with tears, it becomes a black hard stone and stays in our heart, forever.
Shreya closes her eyes. Doctor starts the procedure to transfer her to cabin from operation theatre.
Fifteen days before.
Shreya was feeling relived after talking to Ranjan. In this entire turbulence, he was the only shelter for her. But one thing still was pinching in her mind. Would Ranjan be able to save Anisha? She didn’t have doubt about Ranjan’s intent, but she could not able to see the confidence in his eyes. His statement was more or less like a casual one, with a lack of deeper conviction. Shreya was trying to remove those thoughts from her mind forcefully. That was the only & only chance for her to save her child. She was also in some doubts. It was completely chaotic, with confusion in her mind. Once she thought that might be the best for all to follow the rule of family and lived peacefully, it was just one abortion only. People nowadays did it with no bindings and guilt. Things are changed now, people aborted their child for silly reasons, like job promotion, financial planning, didn’t feel to be a mother in this phase of life, etc. So why she could not. Once it was done, things would be back in normal. Everything would be like before. Lots of cases people got miscarriage for their first child, Shreya would also consider this in such a way, what was the harm.
Shreya kept on thinking about such things in her head and reached their bedroom. She was absentminded, otherwise she could see that weather outside was transforming drastically. No more golden shining sunlight, deep dark clouds covered entire sky. Roaring thunderbolts were striking now and then. A splash of strong, chilly wind brought Shreya back to reality. She slowly moved to near the window. Storm already started, wind became wild, and small piles of dust on the streets were dancing randomly with it. It was visible that rain was approaching slowly across the city skyline. From far it was looking like a white silk net eventually covers the entire city from one end to other. After a few minutes, it was raining cats & dogs, the entire world outside became white and blurred.
Tiny splits of rain droplets were floating with wind, which gave Shreya a chilling sensation. She was about to shut the window; an unusual incident caught her eyes. Sewage drain, beside the road, flowed like a young Himalayan river with a very strong current. A yellow cat was trying to jump into that high flow of water, which was against the basic nature of whole cat family. Shreya looked curious about what this cat was doing, violating its basic instinct. After some time, she realised this cat became the mother of six babies a few days back. She took shelter below the window of the opposite side building. Probably a hefty blow of wind pushed one of her children from there into this drain. That mother cat was completely focused on the flow of water and completely indifferent about all the odds she was facing there. Shery’s heart was heavy, all most five or seven minutes already passed. There was all most no chance that insignificant life could survive. Suddenly the mother cat jumped into the flow of water and stated swims swiftly. Shreya followed her direction and saw that baby was managed to hang with one broken drainpipe but slipping every moment dangerously. When the mother cat was a few inches far away that baby dropped into the flow of water. The mother cat gave a deep drive and started swimming under water. Shreya held her breath and looking for them eagerly, but only a strong current of mud and water was visible. After a few minutes, the mother cat float above the water but she was not alone. She brought her child back this time. Destiny finally compelled to bow in front of a mother’s fighting spirit.
Shreya shut the window. She took her decision. Her face was drenched. But might be rainwater was not solely responsible for that. Some of them were teardrop too.
Rajat just returned from office, he was on the way to his room, at then Nirmala called him from the corridor.
“Rajat, can you please come down to my room? I need to discuss something urgently.”
“Do I need to come right now, maa, or should I freshen up and then come?”
“As per your wish, Rajat, but its urgent. Don’t delay so long.”
Rajat hesitated for some time and then moved to Nirmala’s room.
Nirmala was sitting on the bed. Rajat pulled the chair from the corner and sat in front of her mother.
“Yes, Maa, tell me.”
Nirmala came straight to the point and said,
“What is going on this house? Almost one week is gone after the clinic’s report. Why you have not taken the next course of action?”
Rajat looked at the floor intensely. Did not attempt to reply to it.
Because of the silence of Rajat, Nirmala got irritated more. She said,
“You know all the rules then what for you are still waiting.”
Rajat cleared his throat and said faintly,
“Maa, Shreya is very upset. She is mentally shattered. How could I ask her to abort the child in this mental condition? If I do the same forcefully, then maybe I lost her forever. She needs some time to stabilise herself.”
Nirmala could not suppress her disgust. She said to Rajat in a hissing tone,
“This is totally your fault. I told you before, that don’t get married to this girl. Get married as per our choice, at least we should not face this kind of soap opera type daily drama in this house. You know aristocrat family’s girls know that what are their priority.”
Rajat Said firmly,
“Maa, it is not possible now. I have to give some time to her.”
“Well, twenty-third of October, we have the biggest Laxmi puja of the year. I want this should over before that.”
“Maa, can’t we keep this girl? How long we will continue this custom for the sake of empty aristocracy?”
Nirmala said nothing. She just looked straight into Rajat’s eyes and gave a freezing look like before. Rajat got up from the chair and dragged himself out of the room. He knew what the meaning of that look was. Since his childhood this one look evaporated his all strength and now his left-over morality too.
Doctor Subrata Bakshi, a renounced gynecologists' in the city, was busy on scanning a test report of a patient. His concentration broke because of the noise of the door opening. It was Rajat, his childhood friend and classmate, too. He kept the documents aside and asked Rajat with a brilliant smile,
“Hey man. What’s up? After a long time, you are here. How is life?”
“All is ok.”
Subrata noticed Rajat appeared anxious, and there was no sign of joy on his face for meeting his old friend after a long time. Subrata said empathetically,
“What happens, my friend? I think something goes terribly wrong in your life. Tell me, I may help you in somewhere. Before that let me know, what would you like to drink? Tea or coffee?”
Rajat clung to his hair tightly and stretched backwards. Then he said.
Subrata did not respond to anything. He was observing Rajat calmly.
Rajat said again,
“Coffee without sugar.”
Subrata placed the order of two coffees over the intercom and then sat attentively. Rajat briefed his entire story and his helplessness. After finishing the same Rajat Said,
“I don’t know Subrata. What should I do now? I really can not find any solution in either way.”
“Abortion is nowadays a very common matter. However, I don’t prefer this, personally, but you know we are in medical business so sometimes our own likes & dislikes do not get priority. Any way my junior doctors basically handle these cases. So, if you want then, I can arrange the same.”
“Subrata, arrange it as soon as possible, let’s get it over. I can’t live in such a tensed way all the time. I need my life and Shreya back.”
Subrata checked the dates and then said,
“Twenty second is the only date where operation theatre is vacant in morning session. We can do it that day.”
“That’s great.” Rajat said.
Subrata placed his hand on chin and said thoughtfully,
“But Rajat, you need to convince your wife. We can’t operate without her concern.”
“That I will manage Subrata. You booked the date.”
“Ok then, twenty-second of October is final.”
Rajat Smiled and left the chamber. Subrata waited for some time, then picked up his mobile and dialled a number. After two rings, another end picked up, Subrata said,
“Hello. Yes, your prediction is correct. Rajat just left my chamber.”
Subrata then started listening attentively to other end instructions. After some time, he said,
“Okay. No issue I will arrange everything in orders so that it can be done flawlessly, as per your instruction.”
Rajat wanted to come out from this situation desperately. He could not handle this dilemma, still he believed that this abortion is a minor incident only. But in his mind, someone kept on saying that something grossly wrong somewhere in this total process. He failed to find out the satisfactory peace of mind he was looking for, even after finalisation of abortion date.
That night Rajat observed that Shreya was behaving almost normally, he thought Shreya might finally accept the truth and ready to follow this family’s custom. It quite relieved him. Already, seven days passed after his discussion with Nirmala. He thought this is the right time to discuss the same and informed her about the date he booked.
He started the conversation.
“Shreya, I was thinking something.”
Shreya replied normally,
“No, I was just thinking that, we should complete the procedure as early as possible. More we delay it will be more difficult for you.”
Shreya replied absentmindedly,
“What procedure you are talking about.”
Rajat was a little surprised but still he wanted to make it clear, so, he said with irritation,
“I am talking about the abortion Shreya, where is your attention nowadays.”
Shreya didn’t reply to anything. She just sat and kept on folding the old cloths as she was doing earlier.
Before Rajat said something further, a servant came announced that dinner had been served. Raychaudhuri's family always had dinner in a fixed time and together.
It is an old but elegant six-seater dining table, made of pure teak wood, they inherited. A bright but soothing light with half dome was hanging over the table. They usually left vacant two side chairs and sat face to face during the dinner. However, Nirmala did not like too much talk during dinner, but still they spoke to each other in general. That day Shreya sat opposite of Ranjan instead of Rajat. It was nothing unusual; they rotated their positions as per their choice and convenience of each day.
During the dinner, Rajat started the same topic in front of four of them.
“Maa, today I have visited the clinic and twenty-second will be the date. I think same day they can release Shreya by evening.”
Ranjan & Shreya understood about what Rajat was talking about. Shreya did not pay any attention to his statement. She was continuing her dinner as Rajat was talking about some general topic like what the weather for tomorrow would be.
Nirmala observed Shreya keenly and then said,
“Well, then the matter is settled here. But you know next day we have big Laxmi puja at home, so I could not go along with Shreya. So, you may need to accompany her.”
Rajat nodded her head like an obedient son.
Ranjan frowned his eyes and gave a sarcastic look to Rajat.
Shreya suddenly asks,
“Maa, do you know a good kantha (one sort of comforter for newborn baby with typical long stich, usually made by old sarees) stitching person here? I have already sorted out the old cloths for the upcoming girl.”
Nirmala choked violently. Ranjan put some water on the glass and helped Nirmala to settle down. Then Nirmala said,
“What are you talking about? We already decided.”
“That’s all of you have decided on behalf of me. But I have taken my decision, I will save this girl at any cost. So, I will definitely give birth to this girl. I am ready to take head on with anyone in this world to do this.” Shreya said it firmly.
Rajat stood up and shouted,
“Are you become insane? What is this nonsense you are uttering? Let me clear one thing, if you want to stay as my wife and daughter- in - law of this family, then you must do it. Or else…” Rajat stopped in midway & kept the sentence incomplete.
“Or else what, I need to go out of this house that you mean probably, well I will do that to save my girl. I can sacrifice everything I have, but can’t sacrifice my child. You have forgotten one thing, a woman, first a mother, then all other roles of life. I am leaving this house tomorrow morning and leaves you too.”
Nirmala smiled and said,
“Calm down Shreya, the world outside is not so nice for a single mother as it appeared to be. Let me tell you a story which I got it from my mother-in-law & she got it from her grandmother-in-law. The story about our seventh king of this family. He had five queens & one of those queens got pregnant and not informed the king. She went to visit her mother’s house and stayed there till the time she gave birth to a girl child. Queen was frightened, if king got to know it’s a girl then he would kill her. She moved with her child in a hidden place for immediate safety. Then she made a secret escape plan from the reach of king and set everything ready. When her family came to wish a wonderful journey to her on next day morning, they found both are dead. Moral of the story is that man of this family can go to any extend to protect their honour and pride. Not only this family, you might observe in newspaper that still honour killing exists in our society. So be wise and act accordingly.”
Ranjan then exclaimed,
“Will you please shut your mouth, Nirmala? Why are you making things so dirty?”
Then he looked at Shreya and said,
“Shreya, please don’t make this difficult for all of us. Please go with Rajat as par schedule and get it done. I am requesting you to understand that this is the cost you must pay for getting married to this cursed family. Please, no more argument, Shreya. This is the only way which is better for each of us. Trust me.”
It’s like earth had been shaken for Shreya, even Ranjan was supporting them too. She was so alone in this fight. Ranjan was her last hope. How could he cheat on her in such a way? Why he lighted the lamp of hope in front of her that day? It broke her apart after Ranjan’s last statement. She held her emotion and said,
“Well, baba, I will do as per your orders only. But after this I will leave this house forever. Nothing can hold me here further.”
Then she poured water on her dinner plate and walked away.
Shreya is in half conscious state, it’s a mixed feeling of reality and dream. So, she is not sure that whatever she observed or hears, those are her reality or imagination. They transferred her to cabin now. Rajat moves to Shreya’s cabin and says,
“Hi Doctor, when you will release her?”
Doctor Isha is writing the notes for patience and giving relevant instruction to the nurse. She turns to Rajat and says,
“Mr. Raychaudhuri, it need to be informed us prior hand your wife has cardiac complications. We almost lost her. We could not awake her after the operation.”
Rajat looks at her foolishly. He has no clue about it. After a certain pause, he says,
“How is she now? Is she ok? Can I take her home this evening?”
“No. You can’t. I need to keep her in twenty-four hours’ observation. If everything is okay, then maybe I release her tomorrow morning. Now please wait outside, patient needs rest.”
Next day morning, Shreya is looking through her cabin’s window. Her vision is blank. Nothing is captured in those beautiful eyes; only bluish tint of her eyes is metaphorically signifying the pain inside which she is going through. She is completely indifferent to surroundings, or else she would notice that Rajat already makes five entries and exit to complete the release procedure. Finally, Rajat comes with a broad smile & says,
“All done. Let’s go home, Shreya.”
Shreya replies absentmindedly,
“Hmm, where to go? Who’s home?”
“Our home Shreya. Please get ready quickly.”
Shreya looks at Rajat’s smiling face with a strange vision. Then she packs her things one by one.
It almost afternoon when they reach their house. Rajat is very enthusiastic today. Finally, he is out of this mess, family tradition remains intact & Shreya is also back in life. Rajat feels proud of himself; he manages both the ends perfectly. He leaves alone Shreya in her room; she needs rest for some time. He moves to puja's room to check how the preparation is going on.
In the last two hours, Shreya packs her all things in two big trolley bags. She scans the room; no, nothing left out here all packed, except the memories of all shades.
She goes straight to Ranjan’s room. Ranjan is reading a book which blocks his view. So, he does not know Shreya has come until he feels the touch of her hand on his feet. He puts the book down and place his hand overhead. Then he says,
“āpadāmāpantīnāṃ hito’pyāyāti hetutām ।
mātṛjaṅghā hi vatsasya stambhībhavati bandhane ॥”
(When calamities befall, even a well-wisher becomes a cause of them, it is the leg of the mother that serves as the pillar for tying the calf.)
Few drops of tears fall on Shreya’s hand. She looks upwards. Ranjan then says painfully,
“Maa Shreya, if possible, please forgive me for these.”
“Baba, I have no grievance against anybody. Bless me only one thing that almighty makes me strong enough so that I can carry my duties properly in the future.”
Shreya left the room in small steps. Ranjan keeps standing silently, alone.
In this entire house, Nirmala’s favourite room is Puja room. She has crafted beautifully this room and with a long patience to make each part of this room absolutely perfect. The entire floor of this room was made of two stones, marble & granite, in a shape of rhombus, placed alternatively. In the eastern corner of the room, a big throne made of ivory is situated, which is equally decorated with golden leaf. Three feet tall, two idols of Lord Narayan & Devi Laxmi are placed perfectly within the throne. In front of idols, two big oil lamp stands which have five flame heads in each of them.
Today is the biggest Laxmi Puja of the year. Nirmala wears a white garod silk saree with a golden designed red border around it, a traditional Bengali dress for puja. She finishes the chopping of fresh fruits and vegetables, which will be needed for today’s puja. Rajat just informed that Shreya has left the house forever & he ran to find her. Nirmala does not understand the nature of this girl, maybe a generation gap. This is just an abortion, but the way this girl behaves before and after, it’s too much. She never likes this girl, so if she left that’s good news. She will arrange a remarriage of Rajat & this time in her choice. Nirmala suddenly feels happy inside. Finally, she wins.
She washes her hand then sits in front of the throne. The priest will come any time. She sings her regular prayer of Devi Laxmi by closing her eyes.
“Eso maa lakshmi bosho ghore.
Amar e ghare thako alo kare.”
(Hey mother Laxmi, please come and sit at my home. Stay in my home forever as a divine light.)
Suddenly she hears a baby girl giggling sound just near to her ear. She startles and starts looking all around, but she is alone in this room, then she asks in a shivering tone,
“Who is talking? Who is there? Answer me now?”
That baby girl voice again whispers to her ears,
“you are praying for me for so long, but I came twice to you, but you killed me each time, Maa.”
Nirmala can’t handle anymore. She falls on the floor unconscious. The lamp stand also falls with her. Fire is catching up on all the surrounding things quick. Fire makes a red circle of flames around Nirmala and is slowly reducing his distance with Nirmala.