Love has many shades and hues. Mamoni, a 12-year girl, who never knew what marriage was chose to remain a widow, devoted to the husband she never lived a day with. Roma writes about a different shade of love this Valentine’s Day.
“Can you also offer pindi in Gaya for your jamaibabu (brother-in-law, particularly elder sister’s husband) when you are doing it for Ma?” said Mamoni out of the blue.
The family had gathered for the Shardh (peace prayers) ceremony of Mamoni’s mother. The sombreness of the occasion had given way to joyous exuberance with three generations meeting after a long time. Mamoni was the eldest of the seven children. As was the custom then, she was married off at the age of 12 to a man double her age. The man died of an unknown disease even before she met him for the second time
The siblings were caught unaware with the strange request from Mamoni. Who is the brother-in-law she is talking of? They did not have a face to the relative of theirs.
Calm descended upon the room. The shrill cry of children playing in the courtyard pierced the silence. Then the eldest brother replied. “Yes, of course, we will do that. But do you remember his name?”
“Ohh, yeah, I will write it down for you,” replied Mamoni, not wanting to utter the name of her husband. It is against age-old tradition and good manners.
Mamoni became a widow before she had realised what marriage was. She refused remarriage saying, “If love was written in my fate, it would have blossomed in the first instance.” She spent her life bringing up her siblings, their children and managing the joint family as the ‘supreme manager’.
Once, on a warm summer afternoon, she opened her trunk and showed me the photograph of her husband asking me endlessly “Isn’t your mesomasai (uncle) handsome?” It was a sepia print on a worn-out white-and-yellow cardboard. I could hardly recognise a thing. But to her it was the most treasured thing on earth. Mamoni’s love for her husband was like the Falgu river with streams flowing deep underneath.
After Mamoni’s death, I took the thick white-yellow sheet from the trunk and a photograph of Mamoni and floated them in the Ganga. For as long as I could see, I saw the two floating together. To me it did seem like they were walking side by side, hand in hand, for the first time in life. Love does blossom, though the wait could be a long one for some!
Pix from Net