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One Night And A Morning

Norden Michael Lepcha

 
 

She stirred slowly, moaned softly enjoying the sensation after the act of love. She had eloped with Benay three days ago but these days had just passed off in a wink of an eye. According to their custom, on the third day they were supposed to go to her parental house seeking forgiveness for the mistake committed…but for an assassination of a local politician that could not be done.

Who cares, now-a-days, customs and traditions are just considered to be mere formalities, which can be completed in one’s own conveniences.

With mixed thoughts Maya slowly turned and looked at her husband who was now fast asleep. She was nearing forties and her husband was just in his late twenties. How strange, but didn’t someone say that love is blind. Age didn’t count, she loved him, and he loved her, was that not enough? The passion shared by Romeo and Juliet seemed insignificant to her when she thought of theirs.

She had once been married to a man, but that was long time ago, may be about fifteen years ago. He was a son of family acquaintance and her parents had chosen him for her. He was an officer in some government department. He had a quarter in Darjeeling town. His parents lived in one of the tea gardens in the outskirts, where they worked as teachers in a Government Higher Secondary School. They also had land in a remote village in Kalimpong. Everything seemed to be fine about him and his family. The marriage took place with all grandeur. Relatives, friends, well-wishers, came from different places to grace the occasion. After the rituals the groom took away the bride with all pomp. For many days Maya’s village talked about the marriage. Her family was happy. The other village girls aspired for a similar kind of marriage and earnestly prayed for an officer husband.

But all was not well in Maya’s life. Only after marriage did she come to know that her husband was an alcoholic. Almost every night he used to come home drunk, quarrel and beat his wife for every other reason. Good services went unnoticed. Days slipped by, months passed and at the end of the year it had become very hard for Maya to tolerate. Words of love seldom came from his mouth, and in its stead abuses started and ended Maya’s day. She grew thin and pale. Her body was covered with bruises. Tears seemed to have exhausted because of excessive weeping. As a new bride she was determined to help him be a better man. However with time all her hopes for him vanished like a fog that vanishes in front of rising sun. When she could not tolerate anymore she came back to her home caring little about what the society would say. Her in-laws came and pleaded but she had made up her mind.

She had developed a kind of hatred towards men. She started working in a private school and earned enough to look after herself. She enjoyed her work and got more involved with the little children who still had not faced the pains of life and whose hearts were not corrupted with the vices of the world. She had made up her mind not to get into relationship with any other man after all those ordeals. Yet fate had other things in store for her.

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One evening, after the classes she was returning home. The footpath was flooded with school children and their guardians. She walked along with the children, her minds preoccupied. Suddenly she bumped on something lost her balance and went staggering into the middle of the road. The speeding driver slammed onto the brakes but it was too late to avert the accident. She was taken to the hospital. Among those who had helped her, was Benay, a young man -a guardian to one of her students. She got admitted to the hospital, and as days passed slowly recovered.

During her stay in the hospital Benay visited her regularly. They came to know each other better. For her Benay was the other side of man’s character … something that she had never known before. She started to realise her foolishness of looking at just one side of a coin. Slowly as she recovered in the hospital, she also got healed of her older prejudices against men. They shared a deep friendship and saw each other even after she got discharged from the hospital. Never in her life had she met someone who was so caring. Their friendship grew deeper and neither of them knew when it had turned into love. A passion to live life again rekindled itself in Maya’s heart.

After sharing a year’s togetherness they had finally decided to get married three days back. Each surrendered to the other. After all those years of tears this bliss was truly divine. She turned, shifted a bit and then fell asleep.

Next morning, she woke up early and finished her household chores. The day was bright and beautiful. She told Benay that she would go over to the town and get some things that was needed for the house, measured up the cushions so that she could get new covers for them. She prepared breakfast and ate it with him on the table discussing about when they should fix up the date to go over to meet her relatives. They also discussed about fixing up a date for a little reception ceremony where they could celebrate with their friends.
After breakfast Benay went to the bus stand and saw to it that Maya boarded the bus safely. They waved at each other as the bus slowly moved out. After twenty minutes bus reached a small settlement on the banks of Teesta river. She got out of the bus and slowly walked the narrow path that led to the banks.  On the way she met an acquaintance. When asked about where she was going, she simply replied, that she was going to the river to send an invitation to mother Ganges for her wedding ceremony.

…And after another half an hour a woman’s body came floating down the river.