A Story By Dr. Samadrita Goswami.

She tried again and again but still the old woman couldn’t succeed in putting the thread into the needle. She got up from the bed and held the needle with her index finger and thumb just in front of the tube light. She was just about to put the thread into the needle but everything became indistinct and she fell on the bed. She got exasperated and threw away the needle and the thread uttering angrily “I don’t want to do this anymore”. Her eyes got wet even for this small thing. She uttered “It would be better if I went with him” and took her way to the kitchen. The old couple used to have their evening tea before the sun rests. When the old woman lit the earthen lamp in the Gukhai Ghar, the old man used to sit in the veranda and stare at the road if he sees anyone. Today, the old woman sat down on the old man’s chair and did the same thing with a cup of tea. Everything seemed fuzzy to her.
“Oh! My specs had to get cracked today only. What do I do now?” saying the old woman again went to her bed. She sat there and started looking at her phone. It’s because of her broken specs only that she is having such troubles today. Otherwise, she would have told him everything over phone till now. He would have said that he would come back and put the thread into the needle and also get her specs repaired just in two days. She has memorized Sun’s contact number. Still she couldn’t call him. She couldn’t recognize the numbers even though she tried so hard to fix her vision on her phone.
Just a sigh went out from her mouth. Just one day without him, and she is facing these troubles. She wiped her tears and took the ball of thread. If she doesn’t fix her torn blouse, she would be the one to be facing troubles tomorrow. She kept trying to put the thread into the needle very attentively. Once she thought that she could succeed in her mission and tried to pull out the thread from the other side, but she failed again and got pissed off. She thought, “Couldn’t he call me even once?” Sun’s father told that they would go to see the doctor after he reaches Sun’s place. He might be with the doctor. Since the last month, Sun’s father is vomiting right after having his food. He even gets hiccups even if he takes tea only. Sun’s father didn’t pay attention mistaking it as gastric problem. Just a week ago, he went to see a doctor as suggested by Sun. He had to go through so many tests. All reports were fine but one test report had yet to come. Sun called him to his place the day before yesterday for consulting with the doctor.
Suddenly, she thought that he might not have charge in his phone. Right after that thought came to her mind, she pressed a switch of her phone. The phone lit up for two seconds. If the battery dies, she won’t be able to talk to him. She kept her phone in charge. She went to the Naamghar, lit the earthen lamp there, prayed to God and went outside the house heading to the road. It was dark already. This time, she tried to recognize the people out there by fixing her vision while holding the gate. She failed. The young people of this generation are not really good. If they see old people, they run away thinking that they would have to talk to them. They could just say “Hi” at least. While thinking that she looked behind at the house. She felt very alone in the huge courtyard. Although the place is a little away from the people but it was the old couple’s dream to build a home here. Their son Sun, took birth here. She recalls the school days. she still gets shivered when she recalls those days.
Malaya was a student of class 9. During the assembly for prayers, just after all the classes got dismissed at school, a boy named Nagen from 10th standard always searched for Malaya among all the girls. Because of her beautiful smile, Nagen became restless from that evening to the next morning until he reached school.
Nirmala and Malaya were twins. Their mother couldn’t take care of both of them properly. So, she sent Malaya to her sister’s place at the age of three asking her to take care of Malaya. Since then Malaya calls her elder maternal aunt as “Maa”. Nagen was a very intelligent boy. Malaya was just an average student. She, along with her friends, too wanders near the 9th and 10th class during the recreation time. Her friends pinch her when they see Nagen. Malaya, who always comes to see Nagen, couldn’t even dare to look at his eyes. Malaya comes back to her class with a reddish shy face.
Nagen writes a letter to Malaya. The letter chooses its way to Malaya through her friends. A red rose falls from the letter. It seems like the red colour of the rose smears in her cheeks. That night she reads the letter a thousand times.
“I love you. Do you love me?”
A piece of paper with just these two sentences. Intelligent and studious boy Nagen doesn’t speak much. Hence, his letter is also like that, filled with only a few words. “Do you love me? Do you love me?” these words popped up in her mind even while sleeping, eating, reading.
“I love you”, as if Malaya will fly in the open sky repeating these words again and again. She writes a lot. For not being so studious like him, she fears to write to him – her beloved studious, intelligent Nagen. Still her words never end. At last she jotted down her favorite words –
“I love you too.”
These two were like the love birds flying merrily in the azure sky. Later, their love story came to be known by all. Nagen got less marks in the half yearly exam. The maths teacher beats him so brutally. Malaya motivates Nagen and her motivation makes him to focus more on his studies. In the 10th board exam, Nagen ranks first in the centre and goes to the town for higher studies. Malaya and Nagen get disconnected when Malaya reaches 10th standard.
“Grandma, is grandpa not at home?” she comes to reality when someone calls her and asks her about her husband from his motorbike.
“Are you Deep beta? Please wait.”
She guessed that the boy must be Deep. She asked him to stop by signaling with her hands and opened the gate. She told him everything and welcomed him to her home.
While taking the phone in his hand, Deep started a conversation with her, “Why didn’t you go with grandpa?”
She replied, “Grandpa has gone for just one day, It’s so hot these days. I can’t go anywhere. My legs also keep paining. Is it ringing?”
“Yes, I’m trying. It’s ringing.”
“Yes, say” when she heard the voice from the other side, she started weeping again. He made her feel relieved.
“Why don’t you two go to Sun da’s place and live with him?”
Anger grew into the old lady and asked Deep very angrily, “Why will we go? This is our home. Your grandpa did his job as a teacher to a long-distant school from this house. We love to stay here.”
Deep understood, grandma has become emotional after hearing grandpa’s voice.
“I will go for now. Getting late already.”
“Come again tomorrow.”
Grandma started cooking dinner humming a song. She hopes to pass this night anyhow. If she had asked, Deep would have put the thread into the needle. She forgot to do so.
Lying in her bed she thought of asking her husband to bring a new blouse for her.
The next day too, she involved herself in putting the thread into the needle. Once she succeeded. As she was trying to pull out the thread from the other side, she saw her husband near the gate. She left her needle and thread there and ran to him so fast. Her old husband brought her to the veranda and made her sit in the chair. She promised to her husband and made him to promise her too that he would never leave her like that. The poor old man didn’t utter a single word. She kept repeating the same thing again and again till night. Her husband explained to her –
“You’re still the same Malaya. When I came back here after completing my studies, I never thought you’d be waiting for me. For a girl, 7 years is a long time. Along with that you went so far after you failed in your metric exam. I heard that your father was a very rich man. I didn’t have your address to send you a letter. How troublesome days I’ve passed! Do you remember?”
The old man knows that his wife could be calmed down only if he talks about their past with her. She becomes very much happy if she gets to reminisce their old love story. She wiped her tears and said the same thing which she has already said a thousand times –
“I was very pissed off. I thought you forgot me. Every morning I prayed to God and said that you would come. Because you love me.”
“Oh yes. I too should have tried to search for you. But I couldn’t dare.”
“Oh yes, you should have. I was beaten so much at home.”
“But see, how we could be together again.”
“That’s the matter. I too went to my auntie’s place so many times in the hope of getting to see you. My uncle set tantrums when he found the letter you sent to me on the full moon of Raas. My father was a good man. He searched for all your details. He got to know that you’re a good boy. If he didn’t do that, I might not be with you now.”
The old woman sighed.
“It’s time to sleep now. You must be tired. It’s late already.”
The old woman held his hand and slept like a little girl. His heart ached seeing his naive wife’s face. The girl who waited so long just for him, who never stayed away from him for a single day since their marriage, that girl became so restless when she had to spend the whole day yesterday without him. How will he tell her about his biopsy report? How will he tell her that he is in the last stage of cancer? The old man kept massaging her head with his fingers and thought about it for whole night.

  • Note
  • Gukhai Ghar – a temple inside the house
  • Veranda – courtyard
  • Naamghar – a temple
  • Raas – a kind of festival celebrated in Assam where the stories of Krishna are performed through dance, drama and music.

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Translated by Nirmita Saikia

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