This story is about B .... she was born in erstwhile Bangladesh, eldest of three sisters. She grew up being educated in the village school and finished her Matriculate. The stories that I heard from her about those days, were full of her liveliness, her feeling one with nature, her writing poetries, her curiosity about people, life and the world in general. She loved teaching and did not really care about getting married.
But this was not to be ... being the eldest of three sisters and remaining unmarried and blocking the queue was not a conceivable idea for a girl some seventy five years ago. To top it, her father was not really a very efficient person who looked after the family well, hence the mother grew more and more anxious.
B was quite a plane jane to look at and she was dark. But one asset that she had was her hair, which went below her knee, long, black, thick, shiny, straight hair.
Being poor, her parents were worried about getting their daughters married off and in came a proposal from another family of the same community. The man was slightly older, very fair, could hardly speak Bengali, was a city bred and a practicing criminal lawyer. The only taint that he had was that his family had a kind of ill repute vis-a-vis marriages, etc and people were not very keen to send their daughters to this family.
However, B's parents could not say no to such a proposal as he seemed too good to be true. Besides, they had other two daughters waiting in line. Hence, to clear the line, B was married off much against her wishes and she gradually accepted her fate.
She came to Kolkata with her husband and discovered that while he earned a lot, he had almost zero savings and would spend his earnings with his friends drinking and playing cards, etc.
She decided to change the state of affairs ... it was not an easy task but she did not give up. To make matters worse, she became pregnant and slowly discovered to her horror that remaining pregnant was the order of the day as she often was forced into marital rape as per her account.
She tried to look after the children - all nine of them - as much as possible - she did not allow them to go astray, she did not leave them and went away with her mother which could have easily been done as her mother could not see her daughter's condition deteriorate any further.
Her days would pass trying to organise and keep her family together between her husband's psychological disturbances, to his erratic earnings and frequent non earning phases. She kept up feeding, clothing, educating all nine children and perhaps treated them a little too harshly lest they went astray. She succeeded, most of her children became well educated and became successful professionals in their own right.
Then slowly nature started taking its toll, gone was the free flowing, determined, life loving woman and was replaced by a angst ridden, neurotic person who lived either in the past regret or in the fear of the future. Her children for who she spent her youth, started turning away from her as they too could not deal with her anxiety, her neurosis of keeping some fights alive among her children, her paranoia about outsiders which prevented her children from brining any friends home or having any fun at home. She even prevented brothers and sisters playing with one another.
The time I got to know her, she was in her fifties, and obviously she did not take kindly to me as i was dating one of her sons and later married. My relationship with her remained tumultuous as she could never trust me with her well being, nor did she make any effort of providing me with any affection. While this made me feel angry and unhappy with her, I later realized that she did not have the wherewithal to trust anyone with her well being, not her husband, nor her children, nor her own sisters. Continuously dealing with anxiety and uncertainty had pushed her into such a corner, that coming back was very difficult.
I got to see her for about 15 years during my courtship and later days and there was these rare moments when I would get a glimpse of that teenager who loved to be one with nature, who would be curious like a child and who would want to write poems and show them around shyly and would dream about better days. Those were the days that I really loved her, though I never told her that as she would have never believed me and would have created a new drama from her paranoia.
I sometimes wondered, what would have happened had she received a different life where she could have steered the ship herself and made her life worthwhile. It was a pity to see a talented person filling her life with regrets and bitternes while there was a huge potential for her to be a great teacher, a poet and a philosopher.
B died suddenly, one afternoon in a heart attack, as though that was the last game that she played with others.