Uncategorized, writing

Just a Maid ? Sure ?

This time in the afternoon is actually the best. Lunch over. No utensils to wash anymore. Kids in school. Watering plants in the garden is also over.

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And, her employer is sleeping.

Next work : Cooking around 8 PM.

Till then, it’s her own little world. Very peaceful one. The world of books. She took out the book ‘Amar Meyebela’ from the bookshelf.

Sat down on the chair. Started reading. A few pages over and suddenly that strange force.

Again.

As if, something from the book is dragging her. Very strongly. Where ? Who is that ?

“No..No..I don’t want to remember. Stop…Please..”

She closed the book.

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(A few months earlier..)

She came to this house in Gurgaon, to work for him. As a domestic help.

That means, all work. Right from cooking to washing utensils. The employer is an old man. 65+. Seems to be gentle enough. Not like the earlier one, who never missed an opportunity to touch her indecently.

Few months passed. She is comfortable. Very much comfortable. What more she can ask ? The employer never looked at her badly or, talked to her indecently. Treated just like a normal human being. One day, when she was dusting the book shelf, he even noticed that she tries to read the books. Dusting the book shelf is visibly her most favourite work in the entire house.

Next morning, he gave her a book – ‘Amar Meyebela’ by Taslima Nasrin. She started reading in the afternoon, that only time to relax after the usual household chores.

How stupid..She is trying so hard to control, but can’t..Why ?

Sometimes silently, sometimes like a child, but non-stop she cried while reading. Onion is not so bad, she realised – at least nothing as compared to this book. Her face literally looks swollen.

After completing she returned the book to her master. On one hand he took the book, another hand gave her a notebook and pen.

“Why ?” She asked.

He: “From now on, whenever you get time try to write down, whatever is there in your mind.”

She: (Blank look..Didn’t get the point)

He (….Continued): “Your motherless childhood, adolescence, adulthood.

That everyday torture by your step mother, your struggle as a rape victim,

your helplessness to get married to someone twice your age, forced motherhood when only 13 ,

your struggle to tolerate the domestic violence for years, then desperation to leave your abusive husband, your courage to escape to Delhi for work in that train; with your small children despite knowing nothing about the outside world,

your struggle to raise them as a single parent..everything. Just write. You will cry, you will laugh, you will lose direction, might feel blank, still never let the pen stop.”

She came back to her room. Opened the notebook. Removed the cap off the pen.

Closed her eyes. Few minutes passed. Opened the eyes. The pen started moving on the notepad.

————————-

A couple of months passed.

It’s complete now. She handed over the notebook to him. Bengali, being her mother tongue – she wrote in that.

Frankly, he did not expect this. Such depth in her writing who barely studied up to 7th Grade. Simple language, straight from heart. He showed it to his friends. They agreed too. This needs to be published. He translated it into Hindi.

The book got published. And, became a bestseller.

Now, the same book got published in English.

And, again a bestseller.

Now, in Bengali, Malayalam.

And, Bestseller.

Finally, in total 21 languages across the world including Korean, German, French, Japanese.

And, she is an established author now. Rubbed shoulder with many popular writers at literary festivals across the world.She does not need to work as a domestic help anymore. Built a house in Kolkata with earning from her books. Has a plan to settle there finally. But not now. Why ?

She does not want to leave her 84 years old employer, who is a father-like figure to her. Much more than her real father, who gifted her only abuse.

————————

Her name ?

Baby Halder.

The 42-year-old Indian domestic help who shot to fame in 2006 with her acclaimed autobiography Aalo Aandhari (A Life Less Ordinary) that describes her harsh life growing up and as a domestic worker, later translated into 21 languages across the world. She has been on book tours to Paris, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, France and Germany and is often invited to speak at literary festivals across the country.

Abandoned by her mother at age 4, she spent her traumatic childhood in Durgapur. Being married to a man 14 years her senior, she was raped in her wedding night. Had her first child at the age of 13, and two more in the following years. Started working as domestic help in the neighbourhood areas, until in 1999, after years of domestic violence, she left her husband, escaping to Delhi on a train, with her children. There she started working as a housemaid in New Delhi homes, to support her kids – Subodh, Tapas and Piya ; and then encountered several exploitative employers until she met her last employer Professor Prabodh Kumar (grandson of Munshi Premchand) who ultimately became her literary mentor and translator. He gave her to read Taslima Nasrin’s ‘Amar Meyebela’ (a book based on the trauma on being born a woman) which deeply moved Halder as it rekindled her own memories.

In 2010, she published her second book ‘Eshat Rupantar’ – a sequel to her first book. Her third book is about the story of her progression from childhood to teenage. Her favourite author Arundhati Roy, Taslima Nasrin and Jhumpa Lahiri.

This Women’s Day, my ode to this braveheart who proved;

Sometimes the place we are used to is not the place we belong.

One belongs where one believes he/she belongs.

Search, Where is that for you ?

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This Woman’s Day, make a difference.

Good figure. Bright eyes. Soft nature. A charming young lady, she was.

Soon caught attention of the men, staying in the neighbourhood. She was my favourite. Used to protect her from lustful eyes, as much as I can. Not sure, if anybody among them had true love for her.

Months passed.

Suddenly discovered she is pregnant.

Another few months.

And, she is a mother now.

Adorable babies. Soft head, small eyes.

People around us did not like them obviously.

Seeing her perplexed about where to bring up them properly;

I requested my mother so that she could stay with us, in our house..

Maa agreed.

She started staying in our house. Beside my room.

Everyday, after coming from school, my first work used to be to cuddle the kids. What they are doing ? How much they grew up ?

Days passed.

The kids are little big now. Healthy. Naughty.

Named them, ‘Babli’ + ‘Jhimli’.

That day was my exam. Came back home, the paper was not good. Sure, won’t score much.

Sad mind badly needs a booster. Where are the kids ?

Babli ? Jhimli ?

Nobody there. Searched my house, then neighbourhood, then locality.

Nowhere they are. Came back home. Blank mind. Tensed.

Sat down beside their bed. Helpless. Their mother came.

‘Miaao’ ?

Saw the same tension + question + sadness in her eyes, which are supposed to be seen in human eyes, such time.

She did not eat that night.

Next day, offered her my piece of fish.

She didn’t touch.

For the consecutive few days, I saw her roaming in & around the locality, with a bizarre Meowing, searching her babies.

Took few more days for her to come back to normalcy.

The male cat ate her babies. A fact, common in the feline world.

20 years passed.

And, still when I recall that bizarre staring of her – asking me, “Where are my kids ?” I feel kind of shivering.

That day, for the first time, I realised,

Language is secondary.

Despite having over 6500 languages, Only one language rules in this world. Across genre, species, class, phylum.

The language of heart.

And, thereby basic emotion is same too.

This Women’s Day, come, let’s do a little bit for the other women too, who are not so human.

A small piece of fish, little milk, may be dipped in honey ?

And, if mother, providing something extra ?

so that she doesn’t have to endure the pain of losing her babies ?

The pleasure you will get would be nowhere close to an expensive gift gifted by your man.

This Women’s Day,

Come, make a difference.

Spread Womanism.

Not Feminism.

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Valentine’s Thoughts !!

Needle is interesting. A skinny little girl who can terrify muscular adults if denied attention.

And, creates wonder when given ample attention.

Saree, Sweater and ?

And, that was one thing…

January end, 2007. Was taking clothes from husband’s wardrobe to get them ironed. Noticed a pant. His favourite one. A little worn out on left side.

Took the niddle. Repaired.

Took a paper. Drew heart shape. Wrote “My Heart Pants For You.” Put it in the fold of the repaired pant.

And, eagerly waited for his reaction.

No reaction.

Checked the pant after a few days. Still untouched.

Stopped checking after another few days.

14th February reached. Not a big deal, we rarely celebrate it.

Oiled my hair. Jovees Bhringraj Oil. Time to bath. Time for dusting before the bath.

Duster on my right hand. Drawing room done. Now, bedroom.

One painting, small TV and a wooden dressing table.

Barely, one second gap after hitting the duster on the side rack of dressing table.

Amidst those small wooden showpieces,

That same paper which I kept in his pant…

Now, his handwriting, under my handwriting,

“Wood you be my Valentine ?”

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Valentine’s Day..it was

Needle is interesting. A skinny little girl who can terrify muscular adults if denied attention.

And, creates wonder when given ample attention.

Saree, Sweater and ?

And, that was one thing…

January end, 2007. Was taking clothes from husband’s wardrobe to get them ironed. Noticed a pant. His favourite one. A little worn out on left side.

Took the niddle. Repaired.

Took a paper. Drew heart shape. Wrote “My Heart Pants For You.” Put it in the fold of the repaired pant.

And, eagerly waited for his reaction.

No reaction.

Checked the pant after a few days. Still untouched.

Stopped checking after another few days.

14th February reached. Not a big deal, we rarely celebrate it.

Oiled my hair. Jovees Bhringraj Oil. Time to bath. Time for dusting before the bath.

Duster on my right hand. Drawing room done. Now, bedroom.

One painting, small TV and a wooden dressing table.

Barely, one second gap after hitting the duster on the side rack of dressing table.

Amidst those small wooden showpieces,

That same paper which I kept in his pant…

Now, his handwriting, under my handwriting,

“Wood you be my Valentine ?”

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ছেলেটা

ছেলেটা ভালো আঁকত। এমনিতে চুপচাপ, গম্ভীর টাইপ। পাড়ার লোকেরা বলত, বয়সের তুলনায় ভাবুক বেশী নাকি। আর পাঁচটা সমবয়সী বাচ্চাদের মতো ছটফটে না, দৌঁড়ে বেড়ানো টাইপ না।

বেশ বড়োলোক ফ্যামিলিরও। বাবা মন্ত্রী, মা বিশাল খানদানি পরিবার থেকে। অঢেল পয়সা। পাঠিয়ে দেওয়া হল ছেলেকে বোর্ডিং স্কুলে। আগেই বলেছি, ইন্ট্রোভার্ট বাচ্চা। মানাতে অসুবিধা হচ্ছিল স্কুলের পরিবেশে। বারবার বলত মা বাবাকে বাড়িতে ফিরিয়ে নেওয়ার জন্য। মা আবার ঠাকুর দেবতা নিয়ে ভীষণ ব্যস্ত থাকেন। তাছাড়া ঘরে আরও কয়েকটা ছেলেপুলে তাঁর। ফালতু কথায় কান না দিয়ে ছেলেটাকে পাঠিয়ে দিলেন অন্য আরেকটা স্কুলে। এখানেও মন বসলনা। ডিপ্রেসনের হাতেখড়ি হল।

চাকরি পেতে বেগ পেতে হয়নি অবশ্য। পড়াশোনায় খারাপ ছিলনা। কুড়ি বছর বয়সেই নিজের বাবার থেকে বেশী পয়সা কামাতে শুরু করল। খুশী খুশী মন। একটা মেয়ের প্রেমে পড়ে গ্যালো ধপ্ করে। মেয়েটা বাড়িওয়ালা কাকুর মেয়ে। তদ্দিনে অন্য একটা বেশ হোমড়াচোমড়া পয়সাওয়ালার সাথে তার বিয়ের কথা প্রায় পাকা। চ্যাংড়া ছেলেটাকে এখন পাত্তা দিলেনা চলবেনা।

আবার, মন ভেঙে গ্যালো ছেলেটার।

অন্য জায়গায় চাকরি নিল। আহামরি চাকরি না হলেও পয়সা আসছে মোটামুটি, কিন্তু কাজটা একদমই ভালো লাগছেনা। ঠাকুর দেবতা, পুজো আচ্চা নিয়ে সময় কাটাতে শুরু করল আস্তে আস্তে। একসময় ওটাই প্যাশন হয়ে দাঁড়াল। ধর্মতত্ত্ব নিয়ে পড়াশোনা করবে ঠিক করল। লোকে বলে, যেটা প্যাশন সেটা pursue করলে নাকি ভালো ফল আসবেই। বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের ধর্মতত্ত্ব বিভাগে ভর্তির পরীক্ষা দিল খেটেখুটে।

ফেল্ হয়ে গেল।

ধর্মতত্ত্বর একটা sub-subject-এর ওপর পড়ার স্কোপ্ আছে জানতে পারল অন্য একটা জায়গায়। আবার পড়াশোনা, আবার অ্যাপ্লিকেশন্ ফর্ম, আবার এন্ট্রান্স্ পরীক্ষা।

আর, আবার ফেল্।

খেপে গ্যালো ছেলেটা। বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের অনুমোদনই কি সব ? তাঁর ভেতরে যে প্যাশন আছে জিনিসটা নিয়ে, তার দাম নেই ? কাউকে শেখাতে হবেনা। সে নিজেই শিখে নেবে ধর্মতত্ত্ব, ঈশ্বরে পৌঁছনোর রাস্তা। পুরোহিতের কাজ নিল। দেখল, একই ধর্মের নীচু জাতির মানুষের থাকা খাওয়ার জায়গা নেই। রাস্তায় পড়ে আছে। নিজের বাড়িটা ছেড়ে দিল, তাদের কয়েকজনের থাকার জন্যে। নিজে থাকতে শুরু করল ছোট্ট একটা ঘরে। খড়ের বিছানায় শোয়।

চলবেনা। এসব করলে পুরুত সমাজের স্ট্যাটাস্ থাকেনা। ঘাড় ধাক্কা দিয়ে বের করে দেওয়া হল চাকরি থেকে। এবারও।

নদীতে কিছু জল বয়ে গ্যাছে তারপর। বেকার ছেলে এখন বাবা মার বাড়িতেই থাকে। চারপাশের লোকজন, গাছগাছালি, আকাশ দেখে। যেটা মনে ধরে, ব্রাশ্ দিয়ে ছবিতে ফুটিয়ে তোলে। তুলতে তুলতে আবার একটা মেয়ের প্রেমে পড়ে যায় হুট করে। মেয়েটা বিধবা। ৮ বছরের বড় তাঁর থেকে। বাচ্চাও আছে। তবুও ওঁর তাকেই চাই। প্রেম অন্ধ।

প্রেমিকা কিন্তু অন্ধ না। ওঁকে বিয়ে করবেনা বলে দিল সটান। কেন ? বেকার ছেলে তো।

ব্যর্থ প্রেম, আবার।

মন ভাঙা। ভাঙা মন নিয়ে রঙ তুলি ধরে সৃষ্টিসুখের উল্লাসে ভুলে থাকা। তাঁর cousin ততদিনে মোটামুটি নামী painter. দেখে খুব ইচ্ছে হয়, ওর মতো নামডাকওয়ালা পেন্টার হতে। ওর কাছে গিয়ে কাজ শিখতে শুরু করে। কিন্তু এসব আর্ট ফার্ট আবার হেব্বি পয়সার ব্যাপার মাইরি। দাদা বলেছে, পয়সা দিয়ে ভালো সুন্দর মডেল ভাড়া করে ছবি আঁকতে। পয়সা কই ? অতএব, রাস্তার ভিখিড়ি এনে মডেল করা। ছবি আঁকা। আর্ট ঠিকমতো হওয়া নিয়েই তো কথা। জানতে পেরে, দাদার বকা। ছাড়তে হল কাজটা।

আবার।

শরীর বিদ্রোহ করছিল কদিন ধরেই। ডাক্তার দেখাতে দেরী করতে করতে একটু বেশী দেরী হয়ে গ্যালো। প্রায় তিন সপ্তাহ হাসপাতালে শুয়ে অবশেষে বাড়ি ফেরৎ।

এবার নিজের মতোই ছবি আঁকতে শুরু। পাত্তা পেলনা বিশেষ। কেউ কেনেনা ওঁর ছবি।

মদ খাওয়া বাড়িয়ে দিল অনেকটা। একা একা থাকে। খাওয়া পরার কোন ঠিক নেই। মাঝখানে বন্ধুর সাথে ঝগড়া করে নিজেই নিজের বাঁ কানের অনেকটা ছিঁড়ে দিল ব্লেড্ দিয়ে।

লোকে বলছে, ছেলেটা নাকি বদ্ধ পাগল এখন।

আত্মহত্যা করল একদিন। বুকে গুলি করে। তখন ৩৭ বছর বয়স।

এবার হঠাৎ শিল্পীমহলে চাপা ফিসফাস্ শুরু হল ছেলেটাকে নিয়ে। ফিসফাস্ থেকে আলোচনা, আলোচনা থেকে একটা exhibition. একটা থেকে কয়েকটা exhibition. কয়েকটা থেকে অনেকগুলো। সবকটা সাকসেসফুল। চড়া দাম দিয়ে কিনছে বড়োলোকেরা। স্বতন্ত্র নাকি তাঁর শিল্পগুণ। কেন ? কারণ , পাগলামো আর সৃজনশীলতা নাকি দারুণ মিলেমিশে যায় ঐ ছবিগুলোতে।

সেই যে পরিচিতি পেতে আরম্ভ করল মরা ছেলেটা, আজও সেটা চলছে। লোকে বলে, সে নাকি Quintessential Misunderstood Genius.

ছেলেটার নাম :

ভিনসেন্ট্ ভ্যান গগ্।

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A Dancer Long Lost : Recitation By Dipashri

A Dancer Long Lost : Recitation by Dipashri

Written By: Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury

Background Music Courtesy: Dhithiki Dhithiki Thai + Wind Gusting Effect + Carnatic Vocal

Videography: Shantanu Biswas

Performed in WordZoned Poetry Meet, in Bangalore.

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