going through my papers in the morning, when a young girl showed up in our
house. She was about thirteen or fourteen years old, wearing a colorful sari.
She must have been one of the girls in our village, but I couldn’t remember
seeing her before. Even in that young age, the sindoor on her forehead and the gilded conch shell bangle on her wrist
told me that she was married. She was dark skinned, slim, with a pretty face
and large expressive eyes. There were two gold studs in her ears. I asked,
“Who are you? Whose daughter?”
looked down shyly, “Bishwanath Kamar (ironsmith).”
I see. You are Bishu’s daughter. Well, well. I see you are already married.
Where do your in-laws live?”
looked even shyer at the mention of her in-laws. She turned her face away and
you’ve been married?”
long you’ve been at your parents?”
day before yesterday, uncle.”
OK. Go ahead. Go inside.”
village girl, just come to visit her parents. Roaming around visiting her old
friends. I felt very affectionate towards her. She was our girl after all.
But when I
went inside after a while, I saw her sitting alone on the floor, playing with
the end of her sari. Nobody was paying her any attention or talking to her.
Perhaps they talked in the beginning, now everyone was busy in their own
business. So the girl sat alone. A blacksmith’s daughter. Who would have
anything much to discuss with her.
the girl asked, “Uncle, whose picture is that?”
probably did not understand what a photo was. I said—“Yes, that’s my picture.”
made it, Uncle?”
was looking at all the items on the wall with wonder and awe. There were some
photographs, and some trivial pictures from calendars, including a white girl in a cigarette poster. After all, one did not hang Rembrandt or Jamini Roy,
Abanindranath or Nandalal in a village
what is that white girl doing?”
Women smoke too?”
women do. Have you ever seen a foreign woman?”
Ranaghat station. We were going to Aranghata to see Jugalkishore. We saw her
sitting in a carriage. Absolutely white skin!”
I saw that
even though she was alone, she was enjoying herself pretty well by looking at
those trivial pictures. I returned after about an hour to find her still
sitting in the same place. Nobody was aware of her presence, but she did not
mind at all. She had not left either.
that she could come and sit in such a well to-do, upper class house was more
than enough to fill her with joy. The red cement floor was scrubbed clean. The
furniture was not anything fancy but neat and tastefully arranged. Besides the
pictures on the wall, there was a table and chair, a table lamp from Tata. A
few clay dolls—like Ganesh and mother, a cow, deer, a parrot, Radha-Krishna etc.—were
nicely arranged on a wooden shelf.
simple interior decoration struck the girl as the most wonderful. I felt bad
that nobody was talking to her. Of course she did not expect anything more. In
our village the upper caste folks did not deal with the likes of a blacksmith’s
or potter’s children. Just the fact that she was allowed in was sufficient for
her and made her more than happy.
going to shower and needed some hair oil. In the village good coconut oil was
hard to find those days, so the ladies in the family had brought different
kinds of perfumed oils, this ‘Kalyan oil’ or that.
stared at me rubbing perfumed oil in my hair.
utterly surprised. Nobody had ever asked her anything like that. Definitely not
a Brahmin man.
come closer dear, here.”
made her wide eyes even wider in surprise. I rubbed in some perfumed oil on her
head, right on top of her braided hair. She burst out laughing. A poor ignored
child, shyly pleased by a simple caress.
“How do you like the scent?”
— “Can you
name the oil?”
very famous perfumed oil.”
uncle, I better go home now. It’s getting late.”
Do come again.”
Perhaps I put only a few drops of oil on her head. But that was enough to make
my river bathing such a joy! The generous blue sky sent a clear message of
beauty. A harmonious union of the inside and the outside. It was a beautiful
day. A glorious day.