I remained seated in my rocker, my rightful place and my only humble corner in this magnificent and colossal piece of architecture. Perpetually situated near the gigantic bay ‘window’, and facing the adjoining lively street; this unembellished corner was rather my gateway to the outer world. My safe haven and an instant getaway from all those uncountable pairs of eyes that constantly judged and monitored my actions and words. This little corner let me be myself, whoever I wanted to be. The only irony was that I had completely forgotten, who I was and who I wanted to be.
Today, was anyways certainly an unusual and unprecedented day. I had just lost my master, whom the world referred to as my husband for all these years and I didn’t know how to react. Being the person who had been leashed, tamed, and domesticated for more than half of the years of her life, didn’t know how to act upon being unleashed. After all these years, I fail to understand if there could be any other version to my life as well.
I am often reminded that I am one of the few learned women of this town, where my master was the most respected and wealthy ‘zamindar’. Yet, the piece of paper that indicates my educational background doesn’t seem to be recognizable. I am told that I couldn’t have been luckier that my master chose me to bear his offspring. And, after all these years, the aforementioned is the only truth that I seem to know.
I had just returned to the village after completing my college education and had accompanied my father to the panchayat session. My father was a hard-working peasant who was destined to be doomed under his unfortunate circumstances because of his land that failed to yield the harvest of his hard work; while the interest of the loan that he had borrowed from my master, grew exponentially every single day.
My only mistake was that I had pursued the education that was sponsored by the government’s – ‘education for all’ scheme, and which was easily available to me under the girl’s quota.
Had I not committed the sin of getting education, I wouldn’t have accompanied my father to the panchayat session for explaining the facts and details about the government schemes that my father was eligible for; and that could have easily excused him from paying a single penny to his lenders.
It was this sinister day that I hate to recall, when my master had casted his first glance upon me. When I was brimming with pride that my education had helped my birth giver in claiming his rights, I learnt how futile and worthless my achievement was.
My master had approached my father, asking for my alliance in marriage, and in return all my father’s loan and credits were to be waved off.
My father was happier than ever to have birthed a daughter for whose marriage, he wasn’t required to pay a single penny as dowry. Instead, his daughter was the reason that all his debt was waved off at the mercy of his next to lord, landlord.
I had always wished to become the reason for my parent’s happiness and I had indeed become the one. Only, not the way I had always intended to.
Like all the important matters has always been the matter of discussion among the men. Here too, nobody cared to seek for my consent. And, I was traded like a commodity from one man to the other.
Today, it has been thirty-three years, eight months, nine days and four hours that I have been the person, who I am today. I cannot recall even the traces of how I had been before this period. I, the harbored bird in this luxurious yet, deserted golden cage. I, who’d long ago given up on the hopes and possibilities of escaping this captivity and surrendered to my fate.
The mortal remains of my master lies in the living room where; I would be soon instructed to appear and be stripped of all the pieces of ornaments that had adorned my flesh for so many years.
These heavy silver anklets that have always marked my paths and guided my steps for the years and never allowed to deviate even an inch.
The clenching toe rings that forever reminded me of my domestication and strangulation. The one that will cast their deep imprints behind for long, even after when they would no longer be a part of my identity. The one that always kept me on toes.
The wrist full glass bangles that invincibly made an alarming noise on my slightest movement and alerted my surveillances about my whereabouts. The bangles that have broken in my hands uncountable times every night as I lay bare but adorning all the ornaments.
The pricking nose ring that had punctured my self-respect years ago and constantly reminded me that every breath I inhaled, was controlled by someone and that my life was their command.
The diamond studded bulky gold ‘jhumkis’ that always kept my ears erect; to make sure none of my master’s command ever went unheard.
The nuptial chain tied around my neck that was no less than a sign of my stand in the gallows, waiting to be persecuted and exploited just another time.
And yes, off course this vermilion whose intense and unforgiving color wasn’t coincidently the color of the blood. The color that I once loved the most; now, haunted me even in my dreams.
As I encounter my new reflection in the mirror; a surreal feeling of meeting someone close after eons, has engulfed me. I feel light and hollow.
However, the more sorry I try to feel for myself, the less sorry I feel.
It is the thirteenth day of the mourning and the priest is here to perform the final rituals following my husband’s demise that would particularly help his soul detach from worldly attachments and attain salvation.
As a peculiar note of sending off, along with all the ‘worldly’ things that my master might need for his journey towards his new abode, the priest called for keeping his large black umbrella, which was my master’s precious possession. The priest suggested it for two reasons. One, being that since the umbrella was very dear to him, it should be a part of his baggage. And, the other reason being that since my master was the eldest in the family; after that he is gone, the other family members younger to him, have now been deprived of any ‘chatra’ (roof).
It is considered that elders in the family are like a firm roof to all the younger ones who can refuge in their elder’s shelter and seek guidance from them during the turbulent times of their lives. Hence, the big black umbrella had high regards and was indispensable from the overall ritual.
“Was it safe to assume that now even I was left ajar and dispossessed from my confinements?”, my mind constantly poked and asked me.
Thoroughly knowing that I never had any say in any matters while my husband was alive; I was hesitant to know if I have any say in any matters now; after that he is gone.
However, retiring to my room as and when I wished, was certainly a perk that I was entitled to. And so, I quietly snuggled into my cocoon; my arm chair next to the window of my room.
Although, the life-size picture of my deceased husband in the room still ensured his presence in my life and his eyes continued to pierce through my body and soul.
Fearing that his hands might again find their way across my helpless body and accomplish his devious deeds, I refrained from going to the bed, to survive through the night.
That night, the sky poured unstoppably throughout, as if it had unfastened and unbanked every drop of its desire that it had preserved since ages.
As I witnessed the thunderous; yet, enchanting dance of the raindrops from my haven’s window, a part of my soul swerved to pull the remaining one into the divine dance of the drops.
My body that now existed sans any pieces of ornaments, had become feathery too; to flow with the vibrations of my soul.
For the first time in many years, I dared to march towards the enormous ‘gate’ of the villa, all by myself.
As I no more had an ‘umbrella’ in my life, I completely allowed my parched soul to drench in the showers of happiness and liberation.
I wanted to roam extravagantly like a nomad without any roof.
I wanted to enjoy and engulf the piece of liberty that I was exposed to.
I wanted to be anything. I wanted to float and be free.
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