The Belief...

by Kunal Samadder

It was Friday and Rumela looked happy while she was coming out of her school romping with shiny glances shot around as her annual exam was over. It was math exam, and Rumela was good in that. All her friends were flocking around her, asking for the answer just to check if they had done the same. Everyone knew that Rumela finds numerals and equations even in her dreams. She loved playing with numbers and her friends knew that. Not only her friends, but her school teachers too were quite aware of her this virtue. Her class-teacher Mrs. Sengupta had deep fondness with Rumela for her mathematical bend of mind. She taught maths and Rumela was the only one who always promted at the time of solving any problem on the blackboard. rumela always snatched at every opportunity of being praised from Mrs. Sengupta. Sometime Mrs. Sengupta called her at the blackboard to chalk down the arithmetical or algebric problem, while she stood aside and looked at Rumela with strange awe. Therefore, Rumela was on the good book of her maths teacher and earned extra attention of the whole class. This additional yield was also consisted of some hidden envies, but Rumela hardly cared. She enjoyed her popularity. Then she was in std VIII and going tobe in IX after few days.

She was happy that day being at the middle of her friends. Everyone exchanged pleasant voice and hearty smile. Some of the worried faces of the parents were also gleamed with happiness after the assurance of satisfied performance from their daughters. A number of small-circled crowds made the small road in front of the school so tight that cycle-riders got compelled to walk across, instead of riding, and food peddlers were enjoying the lucrative moments. The girls were storming before the various pickle jars and mouthwatering items especially the salty black-powder known as 'current' decked out on standing basket, and the aachar kaku's (pickle seller) hands got busy artfully in serving their loud demands. A pleasant noise made the moment busy and it was quite watch-worthy. Gradually the crowds were dispersed itself and the noise faded away. Rumela bade her frineds good-bye and took her way to home. Her mind was occupied with numerous good things. Her exam was just awesome. She told her mom to prepare her favourite dish macher kalia (fish curry) before she left for exam. "Oh, my tummy is groaning for food" - Rumela gently kept her right palm onto her belly to check how flattened it became. "I can't walk anymore. Had my house walked! I won't waste a single minute after reaching home, just sit to have food." She carried her durdgery legs with hope of throwing her hands around her mom's neck and feel her gentle touch of love and affection. She thought that her mom would smile at her, gently caress her hair with heart-filling kisses onto her cheeks and forehead. Rumela would be resting her head on her mom's shoulder and feel the heavenly bliss until her mom would tenderly tell, "Rumi my sweetheart, change the clothes and go to washroom to freshen yourself. I have a good dish for you, let me serve at table." Rumela then thought of her Bapi (dad) and the wheel of her happiness slowed down as her Bapi had been out of station for the last few days for his business campaign. He would be coming in the next few days. Not only her mom, everyone in house and even her friends would call her Rumi except her Bapi. Rumela was the Princess before her Bapi's eyes. He was over-indulgent to Rumi's all sorts of nagging and pesterings. Rumi's fondness for cadbury was developed for her Bapi. Whenever Rumi's mood was off, her father brought a packet of cadbury and waved it before her eyes. The known blue or golden wrapper could easily bring the hidden smile onto her face and her white teeth gave others the signal that the whole house would tremble in the next few seconds with a strange high-pitched laughter.

Rumi was walking down the memory lane for sometime. As the time passed by, she came near her house and could see the brickened edge of the bare roof from the distance of nearly hundred foot-steps. She thought of running once to minimise the time to have the blissful embracing of her mom, but the sight of finger-counted passersby pulled down her wish and she gently stepped forward towards the frontgate of her house. Her showy gentleness suddenly vanished once she banged the irongate and stormed the staircase. She put off her shoes and socks and threw them at different directions ignoring the place they secured, and rushed into her room. But she was startled to see her mother sitting on the bed sobbing. Unusually the room was clumsy and the things lay scatered here and there. Rumi's eyes crawled over the room once, then she kept her gaze on her mom, trying to comprehend the matter. All of her joy and expectation arose the moments before she had kept her feet onto her room were sinking deep in an unknown despondency. She slowly sat on the bed beside her mom, flung her arms around her and asked, "What's up ma, what's up? Why do you cry? Is there something wrong?" Her mother enfolded her tightly and started crying loudly. Rumi felt the warm breathe and her heart wanted to absorb the latent pain of her mother, but she couldn't understand what had actually happened to her mother, what was the reason behind her hysterical crying. Before she could get any hint of the source of her mother's grief, she felt that she was struggling to breathe as her mom wrapped her so tightly as if she was being fastened and a sense of pain was rushing through her spine from her knee. It might be due to the sudden hindrances of blood criculation as she was being enfloded while her knee was bent on touching the surface of bed-sheet and she couldn't get relaxed physically.

"Leave me ma, please leave, I'm getting hurt....please leave..." - she pleaded. And after a couple of seconds, her mom loosened her grip and Rumi was getting a sigh of relief mementarily, but her body and mind became numb; she couldn't understand what to do, what to tell. She wearily looked at her mom - her mom was wiping her tears sometime with bare palms, sometime with the loose-end of her sari; she was sniffing for prolonged crying and her face and eyes became as red as dried pomegranate. She then cleared her throat and told Rumi to have her food which was kept on the dining table, and when she spoke, Rumi noticed that her voice got choked besides her swollen cheeks. She wanted to tell something, wanted to pacify her mom's grief, but couldn't understand how to do, or what sort of words should be told in such grave situation she ever had experienced. Therefore, Rumi left the room quietly and visited other rooms to look for her grandparents, but all the rooms were empty. She then came to the dining table, and her eyes panned over the covered utensils set over there, and it seemed they were provoking her to be seated over there. For some moments she had been oblivious of her appetite, but now she felt the pull of hunger had been elastically expanded and she was not in a position to wait for any longer. Hence, she washed her hands and splashed water onto her face - she felt a sort of tiredness had fled away. Suddently, some known voices and incomprehensible words drifted into Rumi's ears that perturbed her mind. She looked here and there and gradually tip-toed towards upstairs as she the voices were floating down from there. The voices became strong as she neared the roof. She peeped through the roof-door and found that everyone was there - her grandparents, uncles, her little brother , and it seemed that they were discussing of some serious matter. She heard her Thammi (grandma) syaing, "Whatever has happened, was supposed to happen. she couldn't hold him in her clutch...she never cared of what he wanted...she never understood what feminity meant for..." Her grandpa interrupted and said, "Stop telling all these nonsense, I'm not feeling well. I'm thinking of these children. What will happen to them...what they will get to they will react and what they will learn..." He was looking so sad and shook his head with disgust. Meanwhile, Rumi's Thammi's eyes wandered and caught the presence of Rumi at doorstep. She smiled at Rumi hesitatingly and called her to come near. Rumi looked at everybody else, she didn't know what had happened but she was sure that something was wrong. She slowly, step by step, glided to her thammi.

"When did you come my dear? How was your exam?" - her thammi asked.

"Few minutes before... and it was very nice" - Rumi replied mechanically, and handedover the question paper to her thammi. Her thammi was looking at her, but didn't say anything.

"Did you meet your mom?" - she asked.

"ya, but..." - she paused.

"but what... what did she tell you? Didn't she serve your meal?" - her thammi asked. Her eyes were piercing into the heart of the little child and was trying to see what was going on in her mind. Rumi was in trouble to decide whether she should tell that she saw her mother crying bitterly and she didn't come to offer her meal with her own hands. Rumi was struggling, but her thammi understood her inner turmoil. She gently took her hands and said to her lovingly "You're hungry, isn't it?"

"Let's go downstairs, I'm serving you your meal and sitting beside you." Twisting Rumi's cheeks with both hands she said, "Your sweet face looks pale. Your stomach has been empty for a long", and was going to get up. Rumi then took a bit courage to ask her thammi what had happened. She told that her mom was bitterly crying and didn't accompany her to the dining table. She then asked if something had happpened to his Bapi, or, if he had come before and made bawl with her mom. Everyone in the roof except her brother looked at her and then bowed down, keeping silent.

"What's up thammi, tell me what has happened? What were you discussing of? Why did you stop after you saw me? Why is mom crying downstairs? Why didn't she pamper me when I came back - she nvever did earlier, then why today? tell me thammi, tell me. You're hiding something, why do you do with me... I'm hurt, I'm hurt so deeply that I don't like to have food" - clutching and shaking her thammi's hands rumi chained her with a bunch of questions. Her cheeks became red, and pearllike drops of tears trickled down. her thammi's eyes too welled up and she felt hapless to answer those innocent questions. She fought a battle within herself to tell her the truth. She took Rumi closer to her bosom, and at last couraged to tell, "Your Bapi will never come to you, he has left you all." Rumi looked up and frowned "what!" - she couldn't believe her ears.

"Yes my dear...yes..." - her thammi took a deep breathe and said, "He's alive, but..."

"but what..." - Rumi said and agaped at her thammi.

"...he has gone away with other woman...he has again married..." - her thammi at last uttered the bitter fact - this was what her granddaughter impatiently wanted toknow. She insisted her to put the last nail on the coffin of the dying day. Rumi was shuddered to hear thammi's words and forcefully freed herself from the clutches of her arms. She retreated few steps and screamed " can't could it be can he live without his Princess...I don't believe, I don't believe...." Rumi didn't know then that nothing is unbelievable in life. Her grandparents and uncles came near her, gesturing and telling her to keep quiet. Her brother stopped playing and looking at his sister. He wondered why she was crying and hurried towards her. Few people from neighbourig roofs curiously set thier eyes upon Rumi. Her thammi held her, kept her hands around her shoulder and tried to pacify her grief sying, "Don't cry dear, you are in empty stomach, you will fall sick... who will take care of your thammi then..." she embraced her and rubbed her palms on her head, looking at the dipping sun in the distant sky.

After sometime they all came downstairs and Rumi met her mom once again in her room. This time she could feel the trauma of her mom and sat beside her being silent. Her mom asked her if she had taken her food, and she said that she didn't have appetite for food. Meanwhile, her thammi brought the food and wanted to feed her. She didn't want to take food, but the feel of hunger and the spicy look of her favourite macher kalia (fish curry) deviated her from the recently gathered grief. She devoured the meal sitting on the bed and then placed her head onto her mom's lap. Within minutes, her heavy heart and the physical stress of the whole days made her eyes get closed...

# # # #

Rumi's eyes got wide-open and her eyes got stuck to a corner of the room. She found a person got busy in doing something. He was standing before a table and some rings of smoke floated around him. The person seemed stranger before her eyes and she jumped in fear. Then the man turned at her - his eyes were glowing, the glittering drops of sweat oozing down the forehead and the beads of perspiration shone brightly on the reddened cheeks. She gazed at the man and it seemed that the man's look resembled her Bapi. He was grinning at her and she closed her eyes and covered face with her hands in fear... Then everything was dark before her. Suddenly, a mild groaning sound reached into her ears, she looked here and there but couldn't understand where it was coming from. Gradually the sound became clear and clearer - and it was the sound of a woman! Rumi walked slowly through a grove of forests and the sound became louder. The moonlight was piercing through the branches of the trees and a cool breeze was blowing smoothly. Sometime the sound of crickets drowned the groaning and made bubbles of fear in Rumi's heart. She stopped, turned and looked around, sometime got frightened at her own shadow, and again continued walking towards the direction where the sound adrifted from. After walking few steps away, her feet abruptly stuck to the ground as she spotted the place and was awestruck to see the sight - the same man who resembled her Bapi, was slapping a woman who stood tired against a tree, her hair loosely hung and her face was not seen clearly. The shafts of hair partly covered her face. She wore a torn black blouse and a white petty-coat wrapped around her waist, she was trembling and looked exhausted - sometime graoning, or screaming. And the man was rubbing his lips on her abdomen, his desperate hands pressed hard on her breast, sometime took her hair in his fist, and she graoned and screamed.The shadows of the man and the woman were getting longer, twisted, and sometime broadened and became one. Rumi thought how cruel the man was whose look resembled her Bapi, and the woman was tolerating the pain without any protest even after she was being beaten. At that moment, the woman took the saree lying on the ground and walking towards Rumi with sullen face - the most parts of her body became bluish with bruises, and she agaped with horrifying wonder at the woman as she looked like her mom. The man was walking into the dense forest in the opposite direction, and by the time the woman came near her, Rumi saw that the man was not seen anymore - he was lost from her vision. She looked at the woman who was smiling upon her and said something that Rumi didn't understand - she was speechless and didn't stir for the moment. The woman patted on her back and she too walked away like that man and vanished in another opposite direction leaving Rumi in the middle of the forest. She yelled, "stop, don't go away ma, don't go away...please don't leave me alone here..." The clouds covered the moon and sheer darkness fell upon the forest, and Rumi was crying...She then felt a gentle touch and opened her eyes. She found her mom's worried face leaning upon her and she said, "What's wrong, Rumi" Why are you shouting?" - Rumi looked around and saw she was in her room. She understood that she was dreaming. She looked at her mom but didn't say anything. Her mom said, "Are you dreaming a nightmare?" and she noded.

"Okay, close your eyes and try to sleep" - said Rumi's mom with gentle touch of her warm palms, and put off the light. Then she lay on the bed. But Rumi couldn't close her eyes. She thought of the dream, the man, the woman - so many questions were hovering in her mind, and the sight of the dream poked onto her memory. A couple of moments visioned before her eyes, she remembered of the sight of her mother shedding tears, the red and blue patch on her body, and when asked she kept silent and avoided Rumi. She now remeniscenced the words of her thammi "What has happened was supposed to happen". She moved lying on the bed and took a breathe - the breathe of acceptance of the situation, the breathe of some determination...and closed her eyes till the next dawn...

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