Sunday, March 31, 2013

Those Six Women

Dole premer dolon-chnapa hridoy akashey, dole dole
Dol-phaguner chander aloy, shudhaye makha shey, dole dole

The cool of the March night was slowly closing up on us. The moon was silver and full and bright. So bright that we could almost see the other side of Kopai. Faint beats of the madol came floating in from across the shallow shaal-bon. “Oi dike Snaotal graam”, Chandana Mashi said pointing backwards. I wanted to imagine what the place would be like at night… Santhal men treating themselves to generous helpings of mohua and hnariya and exotic santhal women, in their turmeric yellow saris dancing to slow beats of madol as if in a drunken languor. But no matter how much I peered from this side of the shaal-bon, nothing could be seen. Except of course, the ochre lights of bulbs shining like fireflies amidst the distant darkness.

It was all quiet and empty on this side of Kopai. The six of us huddled close together for warmth and safety. It was hard to believe that the scorch of the morning had turned chilly even two hours before midnight. Maybe it felt colder because it was so empty and silent. During the Basanta Utsab we couldn’t see the program or listen to the songs well simply because of a certain frenzied, tasteless crowd that are found in any festival, anywhere. They shouted, made sexual jokes, and started playing with abir as soon as the probhat pheri got over. I was happy that my sari came out of the near-stampede situation, untorn. “Era je ki korte ashey! Nijera thik kore dekhbe na… jara dekhte chay, tader-o thik kore dekhte debe na!” Debjani Mashi muttered in disgust. Her mother was around 60 and had a really tough time coming out alive from all the hullaballoo. Even Bhalo Mashi had gotten scared. Has extremely unstable nerves, my Bhalo Mashi. The uncontrollable mob scared her to no extent. Although the crowd subsided somewhat right after the probhat pheri, I could sense that Bhalo Mashi still felt nervous and uncomfortable. She was sweating profusely despite all the soothing songs and her purplish umbrella.

But now, she seemed perfectly calm. Calm and confident. She even recited Obhishar. I sang a few folk songs and Debjani Mashi joined in. I was expecting that she would again burst into spontaneous dance rapture anytime, like she did in the aamro-kunjo during Basanta Utsab. But no. The moonlight of Birbhum humbled us down. All of us had grown still and uninterrupting to the natural flow of the moonlit solitude. Debjani Mashi’s mother Diya, went on singing one song after the other. Her voice bore the slight tremor of age, but her spirit soared into the cloudless sky. Chandana Mashi sat mesmerized on the grass, staring at the reflection of the moon in Kopai and listening to both the songs and the incessant natural music of crickets flying along the intoxicating breeze of spring. In fact, we were all captivated by the magic of the night. Even Titli, Debjani Mashi’s little daughter, exclaimed in wonder, “Dyakho! Oi dik tao puro dyakha jachhe!

We sat there for quite a long time. The breeze played with our hair. Little mosquitoes played with our skin. The strong aroma of kamini flowers played with our olfactory lobes. The moon played with our passion. The entire enchantment of the night played with our senses.

But finally we came back to ourselves. We felt hungry and cold. We realized the clock-ly time. We felt exhausted and sleepy and began to long for rest. So we got up and strolled back to the Travera parked near the Kopai bridge. The car started to move, but none of us spoke, sang or yawned. It felt as if each of us had left her essence behind— six ethereal shadows haunting the grassland on the bank of the Kopai river on a full-moon night.
The thought, without doubt, was poetry. But I could guess that all we had actually left behind in the magic are just six different sized butt-prints on the grass.