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The setting: a village called Singerband in Assam. The period:1950s. This is the story of a girl, who like William Wordsworth's Lucy "dwelled among the untrodden ways". Well, almost. She led a simple, uncomplicated life, far from the trappings of city life. It would begin with an early morning dip in the pond followed by an elaborate prayer ritual to the God of the house and myriad others amid lighting of scented sticks, candles and the chanting of hymns. Then it was breakfast and off to school treading the long paddy fields. Her father, the village school headmaster, was a stickler for routine and he believed in the education of women. So, much as she hated studies, there was no escaping from the rigours of it.

The quintessential tomboy, her only giveaway was her long silky mane, which came in the way of her pranks. They would fall on her face as she stumbled, hopped, and ran the fields chasing the birds, bees and cattle. Often, she played truant. Her friends followed suit. Together, they would climb the mango trees those hot summer noons and count who ate the most from the seeds they chucked. Or, they would go to the river and swim for hours till the gong of the school bell reminded them it was time to return home, deadbeat.

But for this restless side to her nature, she had a heart of gold. The eldest of seven siblings, she never failed to rise to the call of duty, be it baby sitting her infant siblings or helping her mother in household chores. And pretty she was. There is a story of how a young suitor who wanted to marry her so bad came armed with men to kidnap her during one of her afternoon trips to the river to fetch drinking water. But this bid was apparently foiled, when the whistle from the young suitor caught the attention of her mother, who immediately sent an alarm. That marked the end to all her outings.

Barely 16 and still in school, there came along another suitor, a young, earnest, government servant, who had heard more of the erudite father and less of the girl. But it was love at first sight. And being in government service, he did not have to try hard. She was married in no time. Almost forty-five years, different lives in different towns, and five offsprings later, her humour and goodness remianed intact. But a bulk of her life was spent not just looking after her family but serving people in general. At heart a true 'giver", she loved people and people loved her. And she died as she lived surrounded by all the people who loved her.

This, in essence, is the story of my mother, for whom the words just fall short.


Anonymous said…
hmmm. hope you are doing ok, indro. shekhar
rita said…
indira, i remember your ma (indon ) she had such a great sense of humour, her impromptu jokes are well remembered, we all miss her a lot.

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