After their relocation to West Bengal few months had passed. Her husband with his incomplete college education got a job in a merchant’s house but the salary was very poor. Her father-in-law, who once owned a business started working in the shop of a cloth merchant. In their new house, where they started living as a tenant they had only two small bedrooms and it looked much-much smaller as compared to their house in Mymensingh where they had huge homestead land, two large ponds, a large cowshed with many cows, a large store room where they stored crops for the whole year.
Few more years had passed. India became independent; she gave birth to two sons; and their family struggled every day to make both ends meet. When her youngest son was about three years old, the family decided to sell their house in Mymensingh, which became part of East Pakistan after the partition and use the proceed of the sell to buy some land and build a house in some suburban area of West Bengal from where her husband would commute to city for his job. The family started dreaming of having a house like the one they had left behind – they would buy a piece of land, build a small house, would have few goats and cows, dig a pond in the homestead land &c. It was decided that her husband and her father-in-law would visit Mymensingh with all the land documents, sell the land to some suitable buyer and return with the money. Since the family had very limited income, a gold chain which belonged to her mother-in-law was sold to cover the expenditure for the travel. Just before their departure she asked her husband to bring back the male doll with him.
Her husband and her father-in-law returned with empty hand within few days of their departure. Their land and house was confiscated as they were declared as ‘enemy property’ along with the properties of others who had fled to India at the time of partition. They could see their house but did not dare to step in. They met the local authority with their land records to explain that they had migrated before partition for their personal safety and therefore their property should not be declared as ‘enemy property.’ A very soft spoken person listened to every word of them with utmost patience and asked them to write an application providing as much information as possible and wait for them to get back but they never heard anything from them.
Few months after the failed attempt to sell their property in Mymensingh, grandma’s husband died in a road accident.
Grandma started wearing white saree and adhered to strict vegetarian diet as recommended for Hindu widows. She started doing sewing work to augment their family income.
Few months after the death of her husband, her father-in-law died of sudden heart attack. Death of his only son was a shock he could not bear for long.
Every night before going to bed grandma used to take the female doll in her hands, whisper something in her ears and wiped her imaginary tears before laying her on her bed in the wooden chest.
After her father-in-law had passed away she also started praying to God, immediately after putting her doll to sleep, for a long and healthy life of her mother-in-law and her two sons.
Few months after the death of her father-in-law, her mother-in-law passed away, all of a sudden, like her father-in-law; grandma’s youngest son was about five years old at that time.
Immediately after the death of grandma’s husband their family started living in a one bedroom rental house, having a lower monthly rent. Since nothing smaller was available she had to continue living there with her two sons. She had to do sewing work for very long hours, every single day. Her sons were studying in free schools.
Days went by. She raised her two sons with exemplary patience and unimaginable hard work. For raising her two sons she also had to sell all the gold jewelries she had, some of which were given by her father for her marriage and the remaining she inherited from her mother-in-law. Her eldest son, in whose house the crowd assembled for the naphthalene incidence, became an accountant and the youngest son became an engineer, who after working for few years in Calcutta and Bombay got a job in Birmingham, U.K. and settled there but used to visit his mother every year with his wife and two sons.
Even after so many years when all the bygone days appeared like a receded tempest, grandma used to whisper in the doll’s ears before putting her into bed. Whenever any of her grandsons asked if he could hold the doll she replied, ‘The bride will feel shy if a boy touches her. When you will have a sister she would hold the bride.’
She used to whisper into the doll’s ears in such a way that none of her grandsons could ever hear what she had whispered in those ears. After her whispering monologue followed by the wiping of imaginary tears she would hold the doll with her both hands, put her into the bed and closed the lid of the chest holding it with both hands and putting it down so slowly that it could not produce even a ‘tick’ sound. That unusual slow movement of the lid while closing the chest also saved her from a fatal accident.
[to be continued……]