Cold air whirled into the small, dimly lit hut through the lone window there, settling a sense of dread and peculiar peace within the woman residing inside, making her shiver.
Barrister Bondita Anirudh Roy Chowdhury sighed, glancing at the fragile figures laying on the miniature cot beside her.
She leaned in to kiss the foreheads of her five months old twins, salty droplets of tears wetting their cheeks. Her gaze turned to the cloudy, dark night sky with barely a star in sight. The crescent moon shone upon her face through the window and she closed her eyes.
Tonight it was.
She sensed that she’d now have to part with her children, and her heart ached. But it was inevitable. Because she, a merely breathing, surviving but lifeless being, had limited time in this mortal world.
With her universe gone, she had no real purpose. Though the dream she saw with her Pati Babu, and her children’s image flitted across her mind at this thought, she knew that a depressed, mindless woman could neither work for social causes, nor be a good mother.
Door tak hai ek udaasi…
Yeh aa gayi main kahaan re…
Batuk, with his wife Manasi were set to arrive soon tonight and she was certain that her children would have a safe life with their Chacha-Chachi in Italy. She felt horrible for abandoning her kids, but she couldn’t subject them to the miserable, unsafe life they were sure to have, with her by their side.
That ill-fated day which created these circumstances, floated in her mind’s periphery. Large tears seeped down her eyelids.
Though she didn’t have a choice at the time, she could never forgive herself for what she did.
The radical orthodox assailants from Dhaka had captured her, and her Pati Babu during a revolutionary movement. They had been condemned countless other times, but this… this was different, she knew it. So did Anirudh.
It was the beginning of the end.
Yet, they didn’t back away. Anirudh assured her that this was a mere hurdle that they’d confront during the perilous journey of fulfilling their dreams of an empowered and better society. And they would fight all social evils until the very end.
Aaja tujhko mitti pukaare…
Pukaarein chaand sitaare…
Aaja ke yeh desh hai tera…
In front of her eyes, her Pati Babu was brutally beaten and she was held back by powerful, brawny arms.
“Pati Babu! PATI BABU!!”, on and on Bondita screamed. But her cries were futile. Anirudh turned red-rimmed eyes upon her, faking a smile, trying to soothe her.
“NOOO! LEAVE MY PATI BABU!”, Bondita shrieked once again, her voice dripping with pain and anger, her breaths ragged.
“Sure, we will. We won’t kill him. He’ll be tortured. His wife shall be killed in front of his eyes, but he would be unable to do anything! And even after that, he’d stay alive. Burning away in agony, just like I am, after the arrest of my three sons!”, shouted the leader of the mob.
“Your sons were criminals! Poison for the society! Unlike my Pati Babu, who is a boon to this society; who…”, her fiery statement was cut short by another helpless scream from Anirudh and her already shattered heart broke once again.
“Leave my Bondita out of this… Kill me. But don’t dare touch my wife”, Anirudh managed to warn venomously.
Bhasm ho jaaoon bhale main…
Aanch na tujhpe aaye…
From the corner of her eyes, she noticed a man sharpening his knife, meandering towards Bondita; much like a formidable predator silently sauntering towards its vulnerable prey.
But that mattered later. What killed her from inside was the look of fear in Anirudh’s eyes. Barrister Anirudh Roy Chowdhury, her Pati Babu, the valiant man who taught her the lessons of defence and courage, looking so vulnerable, so weak, shook her to the core.
All because he feared seeing the end of his world in front of his eyes, with him unable to do anything. Was this really his fate? Seeing his jeene ki wajah; his everything; the other half of his soul, being put to death before his own eyes?
Along with fear, Bondita saw something else in his eyes.
The entreaty to spare him that very fate.
Chills ran down her spine as Bondita quickly assessed the courses of action that could be taken to help him out. Her heart thumped loudly against her ribcage, each thump weakening her belief system that they could get away from this. Subconsciously, she knew that today, their fate was very much against them.
Death was inevitable.
For the sake of her Pati Babu, she’d happily die a thousand times. But not at the cost of afflicting lifelong pain. Plus, times were different. Her bloodshot, wet eyes looked down at her stomach and her heart lurched painfully at the thought of the life growing in there, since three months.
Along with her, Anirudh would unknowingly have to bear witnessing their unborn child perish right in front of him. He would wither away in agony. But she didn’t want him to die that slow painful death.
No, she would spare him that fate.
She looked around herself, at the utter chaos: a large mob scattered around the area, looking at her Pati Babu being tortured in the centre, as if enjoying a programme.
She glared at those people, her red, swollen eyes radiating raw energy and intense fury.
Main ladungi Durga bankar…
Dharm yahi hai mera…
And with unbelievable strength, she pushed off the man holding her, and picked a gun, pointing it straight at the man who was her everything. She shivered, her hands quaking.
No. She couldn’t back away. They were running short of time and there was perhaps no other choice.
Anirudh’s eyes radiated nothing but only love and fury. Love for Bondita, and for his janani janmabhumi. And ferocious rage at those people who had ruined everything. But there was not a sliver of doubt or apprehension in his eyes even though he realised what she planned on doing. He had silently submitted his life into her hands.
Her lips quivered. The men were coming near her with weapons. Time was running out. She couldn’t be late. She couldn’t subject her Pati Babu to that terrible pain. She had to do it. And she did it.
The reverberating gunshot pierced her heart.
“Take care of yourself my Bondita…”, Bondita heard his broken whisper. Even in his final moments, all Anirudh thought about, was her; asked her to take care. But how? How was she supposed to even exist without him?
Anirudh ceased to breathe and his eyelids drooped down, closing. And at that moment, Bondita felt her life leave her. Breathing, seeing, hearing, feeling, was next to impossible and she barely knew what went on around her; what went on within herself. She felt her soul getting sucked out.
Numbness coiled around her like a slowly constricting noose that kept tightening.
Rui bankar kaanpti hoon…
Chaaro taraf hain sholay…
The absolute pandemonium around her, remained unheard and unseen. Before the mob could attack her, however, Batuk Roy Chowdhury arrived miraculously, carrying her away into the safety of an abandoned, remote village hut, where she stayed for the next eleven months.
Every week, Batuk and Manasi would visit her. She didn’t even know what the rest of the family thought of her or why they never came to see her. Little did she know, the rest of them had already fled from Bengal, until things calmed down, thinking both her and Anirudh to be dead.
Saath jabse tera chhoota…
Koi na saath mein aaya…
All these eleven months, the closest Bondita felt to being alive, was when she gave birth to her babies and when she would feed them or watch them fall asleep. Their babies. A part of her, and her Pati Babu.
But how could she really be alive, when her sansaar was gone and she herself was the reason? So, she asked Batuk and Manasi to take her children with them to the safety of Italy. She couldn’t risk them being here, where life was highly unpredictable and risky.
They were unwilling. But she coerced them into agreeing, because she trusted them to truly take care of her babies as their own. Yet, she made them promise to bring them back to their motherland once they were old enough.
For a long time, she had never been asked anything about that ominous day, though Batuk and Manasi were unaware of what happened and how.
But during the seventh month of her pregnancy, while serving food to her, Batuk couldn’t hold himself and gently asked Bondita about that day. She finally broke down and poured her heart out. She had thought they would be forever disgusted with her. For a moment, she even saw confusion and repulsion on Batuk’s face. Manasi was simply horrified, her hands clamped on her mouth.
But slowly, realisation dawned upon them. Steadily, they understood what she was going through, after having done what she did, and why she did it. Thereafter, they took even more care of her.
Her mind back in the present, Bondita eyed her children once again, choking back a sob. It was the only time she felt human emotions within her, after months of numbness. The emotion of pain. The pain of separation of a mother from her children.
But a traitorous part of her was at peace. Relieved about the fact that today, she would get to join her Pati Babu.
“Boudi! It’s us, Batuk and Manasi. Open the door”.
They were here. This was the moment. Hardening her resolve, Bondita rose from the floor. But as soon as she looked up after getting up, she felt dizzy at the vision in front of her. Her Pati Babu stood before her, smiling.
“Pati Babu?”, she whispered reverently.
Anirudh’s smile grew and he slowly walked towards the kids caressing their heads as if blessing them, and kissed their cheeks.
“Look at them, Bondita. Our babies. They look so peaceful”, he said.
Her vision blurred with tears. It was really her Pati Babu in front of her. But he looked… different.
There was a certain silvery shimmer around him and though not transparent, he didn’t seem as substantial as any living body would. Looking at him felt like staring into the brilliant sun, and yet, she couldn’t avert her eyes.
Jag andhera, tu sitaara mera…
“Do you want to come to me?”, he asked softly.
Bondita nodded fervently. She was where her Bhagwaan was.
Outside, Batuk’s calls got desperate and the knocks on the door got louder. Manasi’s calls joined Batuk’s voice too, now.
Bondita slowly approached the sleeping form of the twins once again, and pecked their faces, blessing them with all the strength and happiness in life. She prayed, that one day, they could forgive their Maa-Baba for leaving them and understand their perspectives.
Then, she joined her hands, eyes closed, begging for her matribhumi’s forgiveness for being so incapable of serving her anymore.
“It’s okay”, Anirudh spoke gently. “Though not physically, I was with you, every step of the way. And I couldn’t see you in this immense agony. There’s no need to torment yourself anymore. You can join me. And we’ll together watch over our children too”, he assured her, his gaze filled with love.
Mera dil tu, pyaar mera hai tu…
Mera jeevan sansaar mera…
He stood, his arms spread wide, and Bondita walked into his loving embrace, a content smile on her face. She embraced him, her eyes closed, and the world ceased to exist.
It was that glorious breath of fresh air after being underwater for a long time. Like a light being switched on and enabling the the beautiful world’s sight after being in the dark for a long time.
Haan yun mil hi jaayenge…
Jaise saanjh aur savera…
Anirudh and Bondita were whole again. Complete. Together.
A few minutes later, when Batuk finally pushed to door off its hinges with all his might, he and Manasi bolted into the hut. Manasi fell to the floor, kneeling beside Bondita’s lifeless body. She gasped, checking her pulse.
Batuk hurried forward too. And when he realised the situation, he glanced at his wife, their tear-filled eyes meeting. And both knew from the frozen smile on Bondita’s pale face, that now, Anirudh and Bondita were together on their journey to the valley where all paths meet.
Rishta Tera Mera…
Rishta Tera Mera…
Author’s Notes: Deeply think about the perspectives and dilemmas of the characters.
Overall, how was this?
This plot and this entire written piece has been in progress for about a month.
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