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‘রজনীগন্ধা’ The Tube Roses

August 15, 2020 | By

The important moments of our lives are more or less same, irrespective of time.  It was my mother and then me till my daughter is ready, the celebrations of life remain more or less unaltered.

artwork by piu mahapatra

The tiny half-passport size photographs demanded a reading glass

‘How come you were so thin then?’
The photographs were printed in different sizes. The tiny half-passport size photographs which demanded a reading glass even for a six-year old, must have been cheaper than the regular post card size prints.

The one which had the photograph of my mother as a young bride, waiting with a nervous smile, right before the ceremony was definitely an important moment. It was stuck on the center of the thick, black, cotton-paper and I noticed it was one of a decent size.

“Oh, the time!”, the ‘not-so-thin-now’ and neither can be called new, the bride of the black and white photograph retorted with a long sigh.

Checked her quickly while sitting on the floor with the album wide open in front. I could see her back and smell the whole cumin just tossed on the heated ghee. She cooks well and that’s why she had become fat! I concluded.

“Nothing to do with time for sure!” I told myself quietly. Even at six, girls knew what not to speak out loud specially to her mom.
“Is it red, Ma? Your ‘Banarasi’?”
I almost lied down on the picture squinting my eyes to figure out the hue which after few minutes of severe and intense observation realized that it was nothing but grey.

“Uhu! Nope! ‘Mayur-konthi!’

I sat up straight right away, eyebrows questioning. Like the rest of her kind, she also had eyes behind her head and many past unfortunate incidents had warned me that those eyes don’t even bat their eyelids.

“Don’t be surprised. You have seen it in the trunk once!”

Two colours trapped on the threads, the dark plump purple brinjal and the velvety blue of a gorgeous bird, the saree flashed back in my memory.

“Don’t even think of opening the trunk, now.”

The wish to touch the silk was raw and I was about to. But her warning without even turning her head an inch convinced the fact about those omnipotent sight she possessed.

By then the soft-boiled, yellow ‘sona moong’ dal had joined their cumin friends in ghee and my tiny nostrils flared and sucked in the rich aroma.

“What was the menu, Ma? Did you have ice cream in your time?”

She always concentrated when she added sugar in her food. A Bengali style of adding a pinch of sweetness in ‘all things considered’, I waited! A heap spoonful of sugar melted in the pot, now bubbling with heat.

“We had, but not in weddings.” She answered in a matter of fact tone. “There was ‘kheer er chchanch‘ (dry milk cakes) I remembered vaguely. They were the best! I was starving but not hungry.”

The last statement made no sense to me and ma knew that as well.
She turned and smiled, a mysterious smile for a six-year old to fathom.
“Hardly knew your dad then!”

Letter to Myself During the Days of Corona

Letter to Myself During the Days of Corona – LnC Series by Piu Mahapatra

Still messed up with her answer, tried my best to understand the logic of missing a grand feast that too of her own wedding simply because my good old dad was brand new then!! It was lame of her but then she had always one or two weird wiring, which dad and I quietly agree to leave untouched.

“Did you sit on a throne? Ma, did you?”
Turned the pages to see the flower adorned red velvet-breasted chair. I was always ready to get married to sit on that throne.
“Like a Queen!” I whispered.

She heard and said more to herself than to me, “For one evening!”
There was something stuck on those words which teased me to probe further but I knew it wasn’t time yet.

“Was dad a handsome groom!” I looked up from the album to see her face.
“What do you think?” She asked back, smiling the same unnerving smile.

I could see dad grinning on the photograph and looking back at me. This young man doesn’t look like my dad but I knew that was ‘him’ alright. He, a naïve young man from a small town with sandal wood paste dotted on his eyebrows almost making him comical, trying to manage the ‘dhoti’ in one hand and the other holding the ‘topor’, the triangular hat which he had to wear later in the evening in midst of hundreds of unknown eyes. My heart melted for him.

“Of course he was!”
There was a challenge thrown back to her.
She laughed out loud and said, “বাবার চামচা!!” (Dad’s girl!!)

All girls are! Their dads remain their heroes till another man in an equally hilarious hat walks into their lives one evening with the melancholy tune of the ‘sanai‘ washing the afternoon lights and the smell of ‘Rajanigandha‘ (the tuberose flower) lingering on the night sky.

(Artwork: Piu Mahapatra)

Click here to read more Letters to Myself During the Days of Corona every Saturday.😊

A painter, facilitator, and art consultant by profession, Piu never let go the opportunity to work around and along with the ‘Curious little George’ of different schools in India and abroad. Her articles on art education and awareness have been published in different contemporary art journals of India and Virginia for more than a decade. She loves to let her hair go down and often makes pathetic attempts to write poetry and short stories for children. The only thing she has ever done good is letting her son soar high and low with his wings open wide and fear-free.
All Posts of Piu Mahapatra

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5 thoughts on “‘রজনীগন্ধা’ The Tube Roses

  • A Bharat

    Superb as ever Piu! Your mom was not the only one using the handi.

    Sights and smells and thoughts being cooked together during the creation of this vignette. From past experience I keep my antenna tuned for “live” phrases and they are scattered all over- “weird wiring” for one! “Like the rest of her kind” for another! Actually the title itself was enough to draw me- I have two favourite songs one in Hindi and another in Bengali, from movies of that name. All I can say is- keep them coming!

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