Chatty Divas – A Sack of Stories, Bengali-StyleBy Kriti Mukherjee • Aug 18th, 2012 • Category: 24/7 Talk is Cheap - The Blog
It’s been more than a year since I moved to Gurgaon, India, from the US. While my routine still is very similar to what it was in Connecticut, social life in India has created a drastic change in the quality of my days. And with that one single change my life has transformed in entirety.
The past two weeks has seen me mark my calendar about a hundred times and then rearrange the same more times than that. It was raining friends in the city of Delhi and Gurgaon; friends from all walks of my life; each special in some way; each adding some value or memory to my very existence. They came from many places including Mumbai (where some of my friends have settled) and the US (where I had been living prior to moving here).
The excitement and anticipation of their visits is peaked because of the stories they carry with them enriching my knowledge in the process. This occurrence reminds me of the folk tales in Bengali literature called “Thakur Mar Jhuli”. Am I becoming the “Thakur Ma” (paternal grandmother) with the sack of stories then?
As I sit to write today, a brimful of sharable episodes scream to find expression in written letters but I am given the task to choose the best. And so here it goes – a story from my friend Zubena.
Zubena escorts her ailing mother-in-law to Delhi every three months for treatment. When they are here, relatives from every corner in Delhi clamor to host their stay. This August they put up in her husbands’ aunt’s house located in a posh locality. After a couple of days of her arrival, Zubena called me to say that they had finished their hospital routine before schedule and she had about a day in hand to catch up with me. We quickly analyzed possibilities of her spending a night at my place to unwind. Hurried arrangements were made and soon we were together chatting, drinking and cooking a mouth-watering dinner together.
We went through everything – husbands, tourists in Darjeeling, the weather, recipes, mother-in-laws, long lost friends, children, shopping, relationships, complications, commitments and more. This happened in breaks as I was racing to finish work and take my calls intermittently. It was refreshing to say the least! And before we knew it, it was time for her to leave the next day. Guilty about not having given her all my time, I decided to drop her to Delhi myself, just to catch up on any bit of information we may have missed sharing.
On the way to the car, I inquired about the aunt she was living with. “So how is she related to you again?” I asked. Zubena explained but there was a subtle smile in her eyes all the while. I wondered about that but before I could question her further she asked, “Have you ever heard about the evil queen, Kriti?” I searched deep within my mental notes to dig out that something I actually did hear a long time ago. My brain sent out foggy images of poison and a scary face so I looked at Zubena for help.
There was a time in history when the majestic Himalayas contained several kingdoms spread all over it. In one such kingdom in Asia the reigning King had married many women. Not to mention, the heirs to the throne were plenty. The kingdom was shrouded in suspicion and jealousy. A rumor in favor of a particular wife or son had tremendous repercussions. It was in this background that one of the wives (the youngest then) devised a conspiracy to kill the King and seat her son on the throne. Unfortunately for the “evil queen”, the plan was discovered and the queen sent to live in isolation.
In her angst, blinded by rage and jealousy, she greased a few palms and managed to sneak out of the walls that kept her confined. People who did see her that night vouched to have only seen an apparition covered from head to toe. The only visible part of her on that inky blue night, was a pale hand with bony fingers, clutching a small sack. She was seen as if almost floating towards the kingdom’s water reservoirs. But before she reached her destination she was accosted by the King’s guards and asked to identify herself.
Her plan of poisoning the entire population through the water they consumed was unearthed in the scuffle that followed. But she managed to flee once more and this time she knew better than to stay in the kingdom. She fled and did not look back till she reached India. In India she approached an influential political personality who could pull strings at will. And that is how India became home to the lady whom posterity would remember as the “Evil Queen”.
By the time Zubena finished the story we had approached her destination and she started gathering her things to leave. I was still absorbing the story just related to me when the car came to a halt in front of her hostesses’ house. It was already 9.30 p.m. then and the family upstairs would be gathering for dinner. I had declined her invitation to join them when Zubena looked at me and asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to meet my Aunt-in-law?”
The tone of her voice sent chills down my spine and left me wide-eyed for the rest of my journey back home.
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Kriti Mukherjee is a marketing consultant by profession. She says, "I like to think I am a happy person who can make a difference in people's lives. Absolutely love to travel and am nuts about my family. I write to hear my thoughts and to see what people have to say about them." She blogs at http://kriti-howaboutthis.blogspot.com/
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