Saturday, September 15, 2018

A Difficult Love Story


"I am what I am. So take me as I am." 
- Johann Wolfgang, German philosopher.

The night was eerily calm, the sky as seen from the balcony of our third floor flat was black, without a single star twinkling. It was late monsoon. And after a continuous drizzle for the entire day, the sky was still overcast, though the rain had subsided for the time-being. I rested my back on the chair, as I plugged the headphone in my ear.

"Pehle pyaar ka pehla gum
Pehli baar hain aankhen num
Pehla hai tanhaai ka yeh mausam
Aa bhi jaao varana ro denge hum."
As I listened to the song for the n-th time, tears started streaming down my face once again. Suddenly a gentle touch on my head broke my reverie. It was a healing touch. I looked over my shoulder and found my mother standing behind me. 
"Come. Dinner is ready.", she said laconically.
"I am not hungry, Maa."
"But skipping dinner is not good for your health dear."
"Will you please leave me alone?", I said brusquely.
She sighed and left silently.

It all started four years ago, when a chance encounter with Vineet changed the course of my life. I was happy and content with my life till then. He came like a gust of wind in my life and I knew that my life would never be the same again.

I hail from an educated, upper-middle class Bengali family of Kolkata. God has blessed me with wonderful parents who are always rooting for me. So when I decided to study English literature, inspite of fetching good marks in science in +2, my parents didn't object. Later, when I took up the teaching job in a local school, inspite of my excellent academic background which could have easily secured more lucrative job for me, my parents again didn't force me. The salary that I earn as the English teacher is decent to ensure a comfortable life for me. During weekends, I volunteer at a NGO named "Hope Foundation" working for the betterment of the lives of underprivileged children. I immensely enjoyed the company of children, both at the NGO and at my school, though I knew for sure that I'll never have any of mine. My parents were eager to get me married. But once I expressed to them my lack of interest in marriage, they never forced me to marry against my will.

I met Vineet at the birthday party of my colleague Mitali's son - Tublu. Mitali is the Geography teacher in the same school where I teach. She is not just a colleague, she is a good friend of mine. Vineet is a distant cousin of Mitali's husband. I never believed in love-at-first-sight until then. But when I saw Vineet, I knew that love can indeed happen at first sight. Vineet Agarwal - tall, fair and handsome - as if a hero incarnated from a Mills and Boon book. He was working as a Software Engineer in a leading MNC in Bangalore. He hails from an orthodox family in U.P. He is twenty years older to me. Guys of that age are normally married. So my first thought was that probably he had a wife. And kids, too. Suddenly I felt a pang of jealousy hitting me. How lucky is that woman who has a husband like Vineet. Though he was not seen with his family in that birthday party. Mitali introduced us to each other, though we didn't get much time to talk and get to know each other, because it was Tublu's time to cut the cake. After that, all guests hurried to have dinner. Meanwhile, I somehow failed to manage to talk to Vineet. Later in school, I came to know from Mitali that Vineet was still single. "Why?", I was curious. "I don't know exactly. May be, he is just not interested."

I met him again exactly after one year, at Tublu's next birthday party. This time I made it a point to talk to him. Conversation flowed easily, as if we knew each other since ages and we exchanged mobile numbers. Though I had his mobile number, I was hesitant to call him this time. But I was pleasantly surprised when I received a call from him a couple of weeks after the birthday party. He told me that he would be visiting Kolkata for a few days for some official work and that he wanted to meet me. The very thought of meeting him in person gave me goosebumps. We met at CCD and over a cup of coffee, he confessed his feelings for me.

Ah, that feeling of first love. It feels like the first shower of monsoon after a prolonged scorcher. It feels like the warm embrace of blanket on a chilly winter night.

But I knew right from the beginning that our families would never approve of our relationship. My parents were shocked when they came to know of this, whereas his family threatened to disown him. He suggested to elope, but I never wanted to take him away from his parents.

"You knew right from the beginning that our families would never approve of this relationship. But now you don't want this relationship without parental approval. Why? What right do you have to ruin my life in this way?", yelled Vineet over mobile.
"Pardon me, if you can", I sobbed.

"The Supreme Court decriminalised Sec 377 of IPC in a big win for the LGBT community. 'History owes an apology to the LGBT community. They were made to live a life of fear.' " , read the newspaper headline. Tears started streaming down my face. These were tears of joy. How long have I waited for this day to come!

Vineet paid the bill of two cups of cappuccino. Then he went ahead and pulled the glass-door of CCD open and stepped on the pavement. It was supposed to be our last meeting. He had come all the way to Kolkata from Bengaluru to bid me goodbye. He was going to USA, putting an end to our relationship. Sitting inside, I was sobbing uncontrollably. People were looking at me strangely. Perhaps they had never seen a guy crying publicly before. Suddenly I stood up from the chair and wiped my tears. They were looking, but I didn't care. I ran to him anyway and hugged him tightly.
"I'll never let you go, Vineet. I'll fight for our love. I'll fight for love like ours that wither in fear of society."
"I love you too, Sanjay. Never leave me. Ever. Together we'll tide over all the obstacles.", whispered Vineet in my ears.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend,
WOW: I Ran To Him/Her Anyway
an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’ 

This is a WOW post!

Image Source: Pexels
This post titled "Theirs Was A Difficult Love Story With Generation Differences... Yet, Love Always Wins!" has been published on Women's Web as a Featured Post. Featured Posts are a careful selection of highly relevant and interesting posts picked up by the editors of Women's Web each day. To read the full story, Click here.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Movie Review: Paromitar Ek Din


Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

I have always been an ardent fan of movies by Aparna Sen. These days whenever any of her movies hits the theatre, I make it a point to watch the movie. But today I'll write about a movie by Sen that was released way back in 2000 - "Paromitar Ek Din" (House of Memories). Though I had watched the movie at that time, being a naive school-girl, I failed to realize the full import of the movie. Recently I watched the movie again and I was literally shaken to the core after watching the movie. Some of the scenes seemed a direct copy of some of the incidents of my own life. And I was surprised to realise that someone else made the movie long before the unfolding of these events in my life. However, apart from the personal connection that I felt for this movie, the movie is truly awesome in it's own right.

The Story

The movie depicts the incidents of one particular day in the life of it's female protagonist Paromita - the day of her ex-mother-in-law's funeral. Attending the funeral opens as if the floodgate of her memories and all the memories associated with that old decrepit North-Kolkata house comes alive. The movie shows those memories in flashback.

A young Paromita steps in the Sanyal household as the youngest daughter-in-law. With time, she becomes very close to her mother-in-law Sanaka and her schizophrenic sister-in-law Khuku. In time, she gives birth to son, the only male heir of the Sanyal household. But her son is born with Cerebral Palsy. The arrival of an ill child loosens her bond with her husband, who blames her for her inability to give birth to a healthy child. Later, she gets her son admitted to a school for spastic children. Here she befriends Rajiv Srivastava, who is a documentary film-maker, making a film on spastic children. Paromita's son dies an untimely death. The only fragile thread holding her marriage snaps down. Meanwhile, her friendship with Srivastava blossoms into love and the duo decide to get married, much against the wishes of her mother-in-law.

Later, when Sanaka falls ill and becomes bed-ridden at the fag end of her life, Paromita again steps into her ex-matrimonial home, flouting convention, to take care of Sanaka. The entire movie revolves around the day of Sanaka's funeral. The movie ends on a happy note with the revelation of Paromita's second pregnancy.

The Unusual Bond between Two Women

What I found most heartening about the movie is it's portrayal of an unusual bond between two women, which goes against our popular culture where women themselves are touted as women's worst enemies. An unusual friendship develops between Paromita and Sanaka, transcending the barriers of age, background and temperament. When Paromita's husband accuses her for giving birth to cerebral-palsy-affected child, it's Sanaka who firmly stands by her. If Paromita's son Bablu's death takes her farther away from her husband, it only brings her closer to her mother-in-law who provides solace to her. After Sanaka becomes a widow, it's Paromita who takes her to restaurant to savour fish-fry, away from the judgmental eyes of the people, as she understands that Sanaka loves to eat fish though traditionally widows are forbidden from consuming non-vegetarian food.

When Sanaka falls ill, it's Paromita who comes to take care of her ailing ex-mother-in-law, flouting convention.

Sanaka represents women of the previous generation, financially dependent on their male counterparts, afraid to live life on their own terms. Mani, the man she loved, failed to muster courage enough to broach the topic of marriage to her. The man she got married to failed to elicit any feeling of love in her. In the evening of her life, she realised, "Purush manus meyeder kokhono kichhu dite pare na. Konodin na." (A man can never give anything to a woman. Never.") Being trapped in a loveless marriage, she performed her wifely duties lifelong, while secretly nurturing her love for her Mani-da. She admitted to Paromita, "Konodin moner mil hoyni tomar swasurer songe. Tobu kete to gelo etogulo bochhor. Etogulo chhelepuleo holo. Aré biye ki ar sobsomoy sukher hoy re? Hoyna." (My mentality never matched with that of your father-in-law. Still I spent so many years with him. Still I gave birth to his children. Does marriage always turn out to be a happy one? No.")

In contrast, Paromita is the modern Indian woman, having aspirations of her own. She is educated and sensitive. She looks for love within the institution of marriage. When she didn't find that in her marriage, she came out of that marriage. Srivastava understood her the way she is, giving her a shoulder to cry on. But she is not self-centred at all. When the time came, she didn't hesitate to take on the responsibility of looking after her ex-mother-in-law - a duty which even Sanaka's present daughters-in-law refused to take on. She understood Khuku like no one else. While the society at large stigmatised Khuku as "pagal" (mad), she was sensitive enough to understand that Khuku needs to be made to lead a life as normal as possible.

Both female protagonists are strong in their own ways and with time, they forge a bond that is unprecedented.

My Take on the Movie

The movie showcases some stellar performances. Rituparna Sengupta as Paromita, Aparna Sen as Sanaka and Sohini Sarkar as Khuku are impeccable. Use of appropriate Rabindra-sangeets (songs by Tagore) add to the mood. The scene where Paromita reveals to Sanaka the news of her impending divorce and Sanaka breaks down crying, is made more poignant by Khuku singing, "Tori aamar hahtat dube jaay, Konkhane re kon pashaner ghai." ("My boat sinks all of a sudden. Who knows where, ripped apart by which rock.")

No wonder the movie has bagged more than twenty national and international awards. And I am sure that lot of women of our country will be able to relate to one or the other female protagonists. Do give it a watch.

This post titled "Paromitar Ek Din Taught Me That Women Can Be Women's Best Friends" has been published on Women's Web as a Featured Post. Featured Posts are a careful selection of highly relevant and interesting posts picked up by the editors of Women's Web each day. To read the full story, Click here.


Monday, September 3, 2018

The Rupnarayan

Beneath an overcast afternoon sky,
Flows the Rupnarayan-
Placid, content and self-contained.
It's soft waves lapping against the embankment,
The thick foliage of Khirish tree casting shadows over it's surface,
Unperturbed- flows the Rupnarayan.

This vast stretch of water of the Rupnarayan,
This overcast August sky,
This sliver of sunlight sneaking off every now and then,
These rows of casuarina trees flanking the river,
These boats sailing idly,
With their prows painted like human eye,
And this endless flow of water from time immemorial-
Together they make this dying planet worth-living.

© 2018. Swagata Tarafdar. All rights reserved.

*The Rupnarayan River is a river in India. It has joined the Hoogli River. The river also passes through Howrah district. The picture here is taken in Gadiara, Howrah by me.