Desi Videsi5 mins 325 5 mins 325
(The original story in Odia Language was published in Puja Special issue of Asantakali, a highly reputed literary journal published from Kolkata in 1981 during the height of Assam Agitation over Immigrants and the story received critical reviews. With similar unrest in North East prevailing now, the story is a flashback to the 80s)
Each day when she gets up, apprehensions dominate the first thoughts. There is a potential bomb waiting for her, or at least that’s what she feels. It will destroy her, her peaceful life. Sipra Bose has sleepless nights. From the window, she has been star gazing for hours. There are millions of stars above. A flash of question comes to her mind- who among them are Desi (Natives) and who ae Videsi (Immigrants/ Foreigners). They look all alike. She can not find any difference. All of them have peaceful coexistence. As people in the ground below used to have the same until now.
Profusely sweating amidst inner turmoil in her mind, Sipra increases the speed of bedside table fan. Her husband Dev changes his side. ‘Not yet asleep’ he asks her. He looks at the clock alongside, With dimly lit zero power bulb which reads 3 in the morning. Sipra responds back, ‘you too are still awake’
She knows there is now a cold war between the two. The inflamed tensions have started taking their toll. She knows, he would communicate something, and yet not having the courage to speak his mind out. Each day after he returns from office, he sits alone and try to avoid Sipra, saying he has to complete office workloads. Sipra can see- other than sitting alone and staring vacantly, he is not engaged otherwise. No paper works.
Dev gave a lame excuse. ‘Well I had a good sleep. Just got up due to rush in air due to increase in Fan.” He got up, lit a cigarette. Earlier he used to move aside so that Sipra does not feel allergic. Now probably he hardly cares.
Sipra feeling unease at passive inhaling of Cigarette near her, moved herself away outside. Early morning cool breeze and the bright moon had a soothing effect on her senses. Then she turned to the bathroom to have a face wash.
The Mirror in front showed her a very depressed Sipra- a loser’s reflection. She, a Bengali, was a Videsi and need to be deported. She is not native of soil and so have no right to stay, in changing situation.
Not long ago, she was a center of attraction in a Kolkata college where they studied together. Dev wooed her for years to be his partner. When Studies got ever, they settled down, ‘I am so proud to have you- my best prize in life’ Dev used to tell almost everyday after they got married. Sipra was no less happy and enjoyed the togetherness- She a Bengali Girl from Bangladesh, He an Assamese Boy.
She had to fight her parents, settled in Kolkata, who were not willing for this union, and she had to literally run away from home to Dev’s tea garden in a dark night. Morning thereafter, they got the marriage solemnized in traditional ways. Promising each other, together till death does us apart.
Sipra was closeted in the bathroom in a flood of thoughts and emotions. Her husband Dev felt unease in the long-time she was in the bathroom and knocked. “What are you doing with all showers on and the noise thereof for so long”? Sipra came back to her senses and present state and put off the tap.
Dev used to marvel at her when she used to come out of bath room. Passions used to run high prompting conjugal adventures. Today was different. As if two persons have been reduced only to two strangers.
Morning came as usual. Sipra waited for the maid to clean and clear up last night’s left overs. The clock went on ticking. No, she is not turning up. Unusual, she was the maid who was dependable and never missed to turn up, even when she was unwell. She stayed nearby. Sipra started walking towards her home. Small Lane. Thatched House. She was there. Relaxed. It was strange to Sipra. “Why have not you turned up, when are lazing around” Sipra demanded. The answer was dispassionate and cold. The native maid said, “I have been asked not to serve any outsider” and shut the door.
Crestfallen Sipra Came back to home. It did not have the feel and warmth of home these days. It now felt more of a refugee camp with inmates from different backgrounds. While entering the home, she found Dev in a pensive mood. Trying to say something, but not able to speak out. But now she could comprehend the unspoken words. She was a foreigner, an immigrant and has no place to be in the native place of Assam and with the native boy Dev. Sipra could decipher all the unspoken words.
She went in. Packed up a few clothes in a small brief case. That she does not belong here started haunting her. The great divide of Desi-Videsi had wrecked her love life and the living. She had to move. With a brief case in hand, she stepped out. Tears in eyes, Dev continued to stare at her. No words. No effort to check her. Looking up at the sky. Probably questioning god, why this has to happen? Why?? Sipra started walking away and her desolate walk vanished into oblivion.