After Pishibhai’s death, on one late evening, he thought of visiting his brother-in-law. Strangely a flabbergasted Dr Jibon opened the door, Stitodhi also heard a female voice from inside…’দাদা, কে এসেছে গো, ও এল? (Dada ke esechhe go…O elo?) Brother, who has come? Is it him?’
Stitodhi and Dr Jibon for a moment gawked at each other, buried questions of the yore surfaced in their glances like furious mindless waters breaking through a dam, flooding the neighborhood; words seemed redundant; Stitodhi ran away hurriedly from the place without meeting anyone; it was pointless to inform the dead son-in-law about the dead mother-in-law, who was dead a decade ago, he could have easily informed him over telephone, but his number somehow got deleted in time, he also had this urge of meeting his niece who must be 10 years by then, he thought; but it was good he came; otherwise how could he witness that, nothing died, all the doubts were sleeping inside, perhaps waiting to come out at the nth time… he remembered why they actually backed out from the case… for it would also mean Tomonahs’s harassment, Sujata was Tomonash’s childhood friend; remembered him recounting once that they couldn’t get married because his parents never approved of it, Dr Jibon and his sister were very poor at the time and belonged to a lower caste; so this ‘jata’ may not have meant disgusting, it could have meant Sujata; but he still thought it was the right thing because of Raka’s daughter, did she deserve all that; the newborn child who would grow up linking her auspicious birthdays with her mom’s death, who would have the heart to put her father behind the bars too?
As he stepped down, he remembered the horrid face of Raka, angry tears refused to leave his eyes, clouded him, each stair, he counted twenty-two, his childhood fascination was to count stairs, now he could have skipped some, they were trying to tell him something bouncing the words of his Pishibhai, Osru, a name she so disliked.
Climbing down those stairs he also played the childhood staircase game holding the banisters, the house-garden game with Raka and others… does her child ever play these games… with whom does she play; with her step-siblings…how horribly they erred; instead of bringing his Pishibhai into confidence they were putting her in sedation, ashamed at the preconceived notion of a deranged mother shocked with her loss and naturally speaking non-sense, she was speaking sense, wasn’t she.
The last time he talked with Tomonash was six months after Raka’s death, on the child’s মুখেভাত (mukhebhat, also called অন্নপ্রাসণ, ‘Annaprashana’, a Hindu rite of passage ritual that marks an infant's first intake of food other than milk; the term annaprashan literally means "food feeding" or "eating of food" usually fed by Mamu or maternal uncle who also has the right to name the child) Stitodhi was invited, he declined because Pishibhai took an oath from him that he would never see Raka’s murderer; but while talking to Tomonash, he suggested that the child be named Sujata, (means birth) the name made so much sense to him at the time; he distinctly recollected Tomonash’s vehement disapproval, ‘No! Never!’ and his abruptly ending the call; they never spoke again. Those stairs that belonged to Tomonash, where his sister Raka also walked up and down for some time, seemed to have taken him back in time, appeared endless, took him almost a decade to climb down and have his feet on the ground.
He came out. Through the moonlit night, he felt Raka, could clearly see a closed chapter he has to reopen for the sake of his sister. He discussed the matter with Anup da, Rahul, Shampa di and others, but the grief it seemed had died an inevitable death in the hands of time.
The case was easily dismissed as a frustrated attempt by an irresponsible brother, a cousin so to speak, to malign a respectable family ten years later with a hidden agenda of extracting money besides a definitive motive of character assassination.
Thus Stitodhi came into writing, like a beginner in the beautiful arena of pages, his first lines emerged climbing down the steps of the world, his feet to be deeply rooted happily ever after in the ground of a beautiful garden, that of fiction
Laws have their claws
that break the jaws
of the innocent with guffaws
foolproof, without flaws.
Now, in 2018, twenty-three years later, Stitodhi’s lost case was brought in black and white from his archive of thoughts, like those skeletons in the cupboard despite his clumsy style of writing, thanks to the encouragement he received from some of his well-meaning, indulgent sibling-friends he made on the virtual space who said he could at least write, just like them, about the unfinished story of his Pishibhai Osru and his sister, Raka.
But how would he name the story… Making of an artist seemed so much eclipsed with self… he is not into all that anymore… with a narrow escape from the prison on grounds of defamation by his once-upon-a-time brother-in-law, who, with his ex-lover, now his second wife, would have been brought to book for the cold-blooded murder of Raka twenty-two years ago, Stitodhi has become bolder; he decides therefore to steal from the treasures of words that worth a re-telling of a sexist phrase, converting it into a feminine one as the most suitable name, have its birth in print, its final cremation being validated by a kindhearted editor in order to overcome the linguistic challenges and let the text see its day into some obscure bookshelves, to rest in peace.