Return of the Axe
Return of the Axe8 mins 233 8 mins 233
The pretty woman came to Nirvayapur, was the center of all discussion for several weeks. It was to be so, when the ordinary blind-man Champu at his approaching old age, who, many forgot to exist, brought her during the festival of Laxmipuja. The village was loaded with guests, in every house as per the local custom. This made the discussion more lively. Many would be murmuring; the original Laxmi, the Goddess of grace and prosperity came and stayed in Champu's house. Everyone of the village paid a visit to his small hut at the outskirt abandoned bushy area of the village, considered to be a wasteland. People commented in many ways. Was the blind man able to see her marvelous beauty that glittered with the bright red vermilion put on her forehead and over the scalp in between the right and left pleated pluck of rich dark hair that added to her look? It did not matter her clothes were simple, country made and were of economy range. Although she was in her thirties some went on describing her as very young, even some youth identified their own age group of around twenties. With the precious new guest to the village, virtually all thought to befriend her. She appeared to be cultured and educated. She refrained to react the people's reaction, except offering descent and pleasing smile that a mother Goddess possessed everywhere on the pujamandapas.
She was Bidisha as she identified herself.
Within no time she was with her axe, spade, and other instruments to remain constantly busy to make a home out of that hut and a garden around. The initial craze of people diminished as she was more graceful than the notorious chauvinistic mindset of males could peep at. In the village set up a trespasser beyond the Laxmanrekha(limitations) was rarely possible.
Nirvaypur was a nice village with no controversy in those days of boiling Madhuban in the line of pro displacement and anti displacement movement to provide land to heavy industries, neither group gave any importance to the inhabitants. Each group thought, villagers were in their side. The industries also did not give much importance to the villagers. They knew the docile people would vacate at any moment within a short notice. Companies became very careful in dealing with the evacuation plans after the police firing that took the precious life of thirteen youths. Everyone in the village resided normally, trying to develop the house, like a man in the deathbed also planned his future projects.
Certainly, nothing mattered to Bidisha who slowly built up a garden mostly with vegetables. She grew several drumstick (Sajana) trees nearer to the fence, watered them carrying in pots from the nearby perennial water body. A yielding garden came up in only three years of regular labor. Now Champu had the pleasure to play his flute only for pleasure sake and not for begging alms. He attracted the company people who sometimes arranged stage performance for him. A house of pleasure haunts with a beautiful garden that yielded revenue enough to live happily by two people.
Years passed under the sword of Damocles of evacuation. A decade and a half made champu old and Bidisha middle-aged say fifty. People sympathized on Bidisha that she did not become a mother. Sympathizers subconsciously blamed Champu for the reason, and cursed him destroying a beautiful woman's life.
Now a days, more and more people discussed about the arrival of the final time to pack and move to the company made colonies. Everyone wanted not to lose a pie from the prescribed maximum benefit in form of cash, good house, services and employment in the plant and so on. There was a mass marriage drive and in a single month all the boys from sixteen to thirty five or more married and joint families were intentionally broken to nuclear mode to get more number of houses. Those who married at illegal age forged their birth certificates, funny things happened, even an younger brother's age became more than the elder brother and sometimes they became twins. Nirvaypur was only following the same happenings in all nearby villages. People suddenly were with huge cash of compensation and started spending lavishly to finish all of it as quick as they could.
No one thought about the blind man. He approached everyone, he had no land record, and he was nonexistent everywhere except in the voter list. He met the Sarpanch who explained him that voter list had no importance, a Bangladeshi could be in the voter list in this age of politics. He further convinced him not to object the displacement move which was in country's interest. It would yield employment and development.
Champu sensed, the Sarpanch was now not speaking for him; gained over.
How it could be a development when his flute for last fortnight was playing the voice of weep.
He rather moved to Ghuruda the other landless youth who was unfit for anything other than catching fish from the particular water body and had no land record or existence in the village as he was not a native in original, only an addendum in last twenty years.
Champu and Ghuruda were not well equipped to deal with the situation. Very depressed they counted the days. Champu was not worried for himself, as he berated him, an old valueless blind man, who had the option to face the challenge, returning to alms at the lion gate of any temple, but what about Bidisha. He could not eat or sleep.
These impaired people when depressed, are in too much of it.
He became seriously ill and was hospitalized up to his final journey.
Only Ghuruda came to Bidisha's help in that hour of grief.
A new problem arrived as Bidisha did not shed her vermilion and other attire of a woman with a husband. Villagers tried to comppel her to live as per the norm with the codes prescribed for widows.
Bidisha was not in trouble, she straightforward unfolded her story that she was not Champu's wife but a deserted woman as her man settled with another woman and drove her out keeping her only child with him. She went to the temple for her last offering before her plan to do a suicide, she was weeping at the slowest of her voice that nobody noticed except the special sense of the blind man who had a chat with her. The illiterate blind man Champu had enough wisdom to save her life and convert it to revenue yielding garden of sajana and other edibles.
Bidisha's 'Sajana' in full bloom.
How can she stop wearing the symbols of her marriage when the husband who deserted her, was still alive?
The panchayat wanted to interfere in the matter and approach her husband.
She denied, which husband in this world would believe his wife stayed pious with a man in a single room for fifteen or more years, moreover her husband was not a Ramachandra to whom a Sita to do a fire pier test of her chastity. She although had strong hatred, could not shed the symbol of his existence after all her daughter was there.
She did not know his whereabout for the last five years as Champu told her the family moved somewhere.
Now she became the most loved one of the village and people became proud of having such a strong and cultured woman in the vicinity. All respected her. She now remained fully busy in her garden and sajana trees. She did not know where to move when the villagers finally vacated their houses. She did not stop gardening she stayed as usual.
Everyone started shifting to the new colony of planned houses, with no plan for Bidisha.
Ghuruda left the village to some other unknown place.
Where she would go? She looked at her garden, everyone got compensation for trees and animals they lost, she did not, and she rather was an encroacher of government land, as if the people with land records had an ancestor who was born with a God given land record!
Those who were aware made the land recorded several generations back those who did not meant they encroached government land.
Bidisha was knowledgeable enough to think so. She was the last person to pack as little as required. How could she pack her garden, the sajana trees those were her lifeline, her reason of existence, and her valuable time spent.
She put her luggage on her head and moved to the colony. The whole village loved her in the hut but in the new place, no one could plan for her. How could they keep her in their planned quarters? She explored all approachable people's help in vain. She now was an old woman and a permanent burden to anyone who tried to keep her inside their family. The new colony had no Kothaghar (community house), no temple, no extra room other than the headcount provision of earmarked confinement for each one but Bidisha.
She was tired and kept her baggage under the only big banyan tree she found in the area. It was so cool and pleasing. Some of the confused street dogs of Nirbhayapur with no owner to be attached had followed the partially pet fellow community. The later group cornered themselves in their owners' premises. Pure wanderers gathered under that tree moved away respecting human arrival. Bidisha sipped some water from the big cooking bowel with a smile of a mother and did not bother to keep it open for these animals. She fell asleep soon.
She had a dream, her sajana trees, hanging drumsticks the wealth of her, and she now worked in people's house as domestic help. She got up and failed to sleep again. She could not accept the projected reality.
She went back to the place with the luggage, threw it in the hut, brought out the axe and suddenly was out of control. She went on destroying the entire garden. The aged Bidisha tired and hungry for the whole day forgot her own self and went on in rampage. She turned completely mad to kill things she grew as her own children, until she was exhausted and dropped down at the root of the last existing sajana tree.
No one came forward to claim Bidisha’s dead body, for her last rites.
Local vernaculars printed her story, only in a small column. The crowded high rise of chimneys, the propelling smoke machines of the steel plants (already existed), the sign of development taunted the last existing sajana plant that absolutely had no reaction!