Aching for past mundanities

Amrinder Kaur Bajaj

MY heart was crushed under an oppressive weight that made it difficult to breathe. I longed for the rush of tears to lighten my burden, but they love playing truant when beckoned and arrive unbidden when I want to hide extremes of emotion.

It was Karvachauth and I am a relatively new widow — a pale shadow of a woman among the glittering bride-like bejewelled women. They fluttered around like so many butterflies while I cringed, drab as a moth on the wall. Not that my logical mind ever believed that fasts contributed to the longevity of our menfolk (I am a living example). It is just that I missed the rituals and the fun — dressing up in new clothes, the intricate pattern of mehndi on the hands, the jingle of colourful bangles, bichuas on the toes, anklets with silver bells, etc. — the solah sringar as they are called. I missed the early morning sargi, cribbing about thirst and hunger pangs through the day, and a seemingly nonchalant husband, inwardly pleased with his woman’s wifely act.

I missed sitting at the katha session in the late afternoon, when suhagins gathered in a circle with thalis to recount the irrational tale of the queen who blundered on her first Karvachauth. I loved the implausible story, the passing of the thalis around and all the fun and laughter that went with it.

The time after the puja and before moonrise was the worst, for dry lips and a dull headache generated irritability. Finally, the much-awaited moon rose in its imperfect majesty and dewy-eyed suhagins looked at their husband through wire sieves and touched the feet of the very husbands they quarrelled with for the remaining 364 days of the year! This was followed by the quenching of thirst and hunger.

No such pleasures awaited me. A pale lily amid a riot of roses, I could not even enjoy the happiness of other suhagins, lest, despite their superficial modernity, they thought that widowhood was contagious and turned away from one on such an auspicious occasion. So, I walked my dog in the shadows of the colony garden wall at night, while they — resplendent in their finery — conglomerated in the park, awaiting the moonrise with their puja thalis, lighted diyas and sheepishly hovering husbands.

I did not think I would miss my husband of a dysfunctional marriage so! A husband I only cribbed about when he was alive. An icy loneliness gripped my soul till finally, pitying my plight, a deluge of tears emptied my heart of sorrow.

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