“Bye – I am leaving – don’t wait for me for dinner! I will be late as I have to complete the legal papers that we spoke about last night…”, Shantanu said as he slammed the door of the living room behind him. It was exactly 8:00 AM – the time when he always left for work. He was a very punctual man – all these 10 years of marriage, Priyanka doesn’t remember more than a couple of instances, when the hands of the clock were placed differently when he left for office. After all, he was one of the best family lawyers in the city and was very successful at the age of 35 years. He owned three luxury cars and a mansion in one of the suburbs of Minnesota and was always the talk of the town among the Indian community and local Americans as well. Back in India, he owned two resorts and five villas. He was also very well known for his volunteering activities. He was extremely sharp and was bestowed with a notorious gift of the gab that made him win most of the cases that were brought to him. In fact, just a couple of months back, he was listed as the 82nd
most successful Indians settled in America by a famous magazine.
As she heard their blue Maseratti zoom through the courtyard, Priyanka stared with a fixed gaze at the beautiful photograph of Goddess Kali hung on the wall over the chimney. She had brought it from Dakshineshwar Kalighat during her sole and maiden visit to the temple in 1999 with her parents and brother – this was five years before her marriage to Shantanu. She used to struggle to reconcile with this figure of the blue colored, Shyama Kali. This image of Kali was very calm and benevolent. Being born in an orthodox Assamese Brahmin family of Kenduguri, Jorhat, she was used to the image of the Goddess, as Dakshina Kali – angry, hungry for vengeance and one whose puja was incomplete without the traditional Tantrik Boli-Vidhan. Her vision of Kali was that of unbridled matted hair, blood shot eyes, and a blood red drooping tongue. She remembered how she as a little girl used to sing the Devi Naam
with her grand mother, mother, relatives and other ladies from the neighbourhood in the annual Kali Puja at her home. Oh how badly she wanted to fly back to those days in a time machine – to the comfort of her family and the society of Jorhat.
Lul Jeeva Ghuro Murti Dekhi Lage Bhoy
Ki Korisa Joyo Durga Horor Hridoy.
Meghor Boron Shyam Tanu Digambori Besha,
Pithit Poriya Ase Aul Jaul Kesha.
Suddenly, she noticed two strangers sitting on her windowsill of her living room of her mansion – a black groove-billed Ani bird and a bright red summer Tanager bird. They seem to be in deep conversations with each other in a language that was alien to her. Priyanka wished that she had a companion likewise with whom she could share her feelings. She reminisced with a faint smile the day when she had first met Shantanu in the famous Sudmerson Hall of Cotton College in 1996. This was a day after Saraswati Puja and she was completely bowled over as a young girl, when Shantanu proposed to her with a bright red rose in front of all her friends – apparently her beauty as a young girl clad in the traditional yellow Mekhela Chador the day before, was too striking for anyone to miss, especially a romantic like Shantanu. He was completing his BA in Political Science those days which he passed with a rare first division and was finally able to get a scholarship at the prestigious Yale University.
Shantanu moved to the United States in 1997 and since then was busy always – first in studies and then in work. He was very meticulous and made it a point that every two days he spoke with Priyanka at least for 15 mins. He was the only son of his parents who were settled in Guwahati. When they revealed to each of their parents their decision to be married, it was welcomed in both households. In fact Priyanka, shifted to Shantanu’s home with her parents even before marriage, when she was pursuing her Masters in English and then her job with a local newspaper. Shantanu visited Guwahati only once a year and this saga continued for almost 7 years when they finally got married and she shifted to the US with him on a spouse visa. He already had a green card by then.
They had a perfect married life – unwavering love for each other, loving parents and in-laws, and Shantanu’s wonderful career. Priyanka’s beauty, warm nature, talent and taste for the good things of life, knowledge of literature and Hinduism, always complemented, Shantanu’s successful image in society. She never wanted to pursue a career, never bothered to change her visa and apply for citizenship, never bothered to check any official documents of Shantanu. After all, she was just following the footsteps of her mother and mother in law. Suddenly the phone rang and she heard her mother in law speak. She enquired after Priyanka’s welfare and she kept the phone down, Mrs Baruah’s voice quivered, “Don’t worry Maa, we are there for you – with or without that scoundrel son of ours!” Priyanka could feel two drops of tears flowing down her cheeks as she kept the receiver. She looked at the photograph of Shyama Kali and sighed – the quaint smile of the picture resonated with the warmth of her mother in law’s voice.
It was six months back that Priyanka discovered a note from one Shailaja in Shantanu’s pocket – she found them pretty puerile, that had the flavor of a school girl. She jovially pulled his leg, and enquired if he was having an extra marital affair, which obviously he denied. He attributed it to some silly game they were playing at office. She forgot about it until a month later she caught him chatting with Shailaja on Whatsapp – messages that had a repulsive taste. On being confronted, she was in fact rebuked by Shantanu for having intruded his privacy, while dismissing it as some jokes that were being forwarded. These hints continued for another month or so –there were unending late night chats with Shailaja under the garb of stringent project deadlines, missed dinners, late arrivals from office and then finally there was gossip among the Indian diaspora that finally made way to Priyanka’s ears.
She decided to confront Shantanu once and for all. They had a nasty altercation. He admitted that he no longer loved her. Shailaja had replaced Priyanka for good in his life. He also ensured that she had no rights to any property as she was on a spouse visa. All that Priyanka had was her meagre Streedhan back in India – the beautiful gohona
that she had received for her juroon
from his and her parents and the money that they received as gifts during her marriage, which he had made a fixed deposit of in her name. She never needed the Streedhan as she had the love and comfort of her parents in law. She had tried to approach many lawyers through common friends – but all in vain. No one wanted to take up a case against her powerful husband. She felt cheated, humiliated and defeated.
Today was the day when he would complete all legal formalities which would make him completely free from her. She was reduced in his life to a mere signature. All her sacrifices for him, all the love that they shared, all those special moments, all the laughter that she shared with his parents and he with her family, were reduced to memories. She could not fathom how some unknown woman could be allowed to trample over her life, and the lives of both the families. Was she that helpless, she brooded? Yes, her hands were tied, but could she break those shackles? Were her dreams and the dreams of both families, subservient to the selfish carnal desires of Shantanu? Maybe she had to transform herself to Shyama Kali.
She noticed that the clock struck 10 PM and that was pretty late per Minnesotian standards. She looked outside from her window and noticed the lights of their car, slowly entering the driveway to the porch. She could not hold herself back and she ran outside with a warm smile. Shantanu was pleasantly surprised as she received him. She held his hands as they walked back to the hallway and asked him, “For old times sake, do I not deserve to feed you for one last time, before we get officially separated? “ Shantanu looked at her without an iota of guilt and smiled, “Of course love – I will eat but not much OK? Shailaja and I had some lovely mutton chops for dinner and I am not very hungry actually. But go lay the table and I will taste from every dish! Will be there in about 15 mins”
Shiva Sagoli Nalage Shiva Esari Sixinyai
Shiva Kunhiyaar Nalage Teli He
Shiva Aire Pujari Shiva Kore Lora Lori
Shiva Aire Bhujonor Beli He!
Priyanka rushed to warm the food – she had made traditional Assamese food today. She had managed to order all of that through some common friends. The menu had – boiled rice, Khar, Kosu Pitika, Dhekiya Xaak, Koldil bhoja, Rohor Dail, Masor Tenga and Jaluk diya murgi manxo. Shantanu eyes popped out in surprise as he saw the menu and said, “Wow – it seems we have a party today! Love the way you are saying Goodbye to me! Thanks!” He kissed her and she tried hard not to pull back from his grip – there was a certain stench and nefarious design in his kiss! He continued, “But why is your plate empty, you have laid only for me? You join me!” She said, “No I want to see you as you eat my last cooked meal!” “Why last cooked – are you going somewhere?”, he asked. She said, “Yes, I am going away tomorrow to Assam – I have booked my tickets!” She noticed a slight smirk on his face and she decided to ignore it. As he was having his food, Priyanka stood up and said. “I will be back in a moment!” She did come back in a moment from behind Shantanu’s chair – she did not wait for long – with the sharp kitchen knife in her hands, she pulled back his head and without giving a chance for him to react slit his throat. Shantanu fell down from his chair and tried to save himself from her as she rammed the knife into his stomach and heart. It was over in a matter of minutes. Prinyanka watched him as he died and then calmly walked up to the bathroom, laid herself in the water filled bath tub and slit her own wrists.
The Devi had her bhujon
Shiva Kali Etebeli Shiva Asila Devi Aai
Shiva Narar Boli Bahon Khai
Shiva Aji Etebeli hiva Jaboloi Ulala
Shiva Tiposire Bhoja Khai