Redness Looms: Parinita Mandal De

Parinita Mandal De
I was in standard six then. I still remember the day as if it happened the other day. It was the third day of the great Durga Puja, the much coveted one for the Bengalis. We were living then at Adra, the famous rail city of Bengal. In the afternoon my father took a ride to Kashipur Rajbari (the royal palace) with my mother in his moped. It was a must visit in those days for the Adrabasis (the dwellers of Adra) then as there happened to be a balidaan (goat sacrifice) on the sandhikshan (the transitional period in between the second and third day of the puja). I was left along with my elder brother and sister in our railway quarter. No wonder I made a harsh cry as I was deprived of witnessing the sacrifice.

 I remember my elder sister brought me the variety of sweetmeats and snacks my mother had cooked for us and for all our guests. The next morning it was the Dasami and it was a custom of visiting the houses of kith and kins in the evening.

 I watched it first when I went to the toilet soon after consuming the sweet dishes. Instead of the straw colour there were those bloody drops. I heard of period by then as a couple of my friends already had an experience of that and told me about that. Yet I had a mixed feeling of excitement and nervousness. Fearstriken I came to my elder sister and told her everything.

 In those days using sanitary napkins was beyond imagination for a middle-class family. Didi (my elder sister) dragged me to our corrugated washroom outside the quarter, loosened my trousers and put a cotton thread around my waist. In my little mind I realized why women are not free even at least for once in a month as I was literally waistcuffed for the coming days. Didi put a piece of white cloth soon to be reddened. She strictly forebode me to touch anything related to puja.When we came out together from the washroom my elder brother's curious eyes left me ashamed for the first time in my life before him. I felt sharing everything with my beloved dada had come to an end from now.

 I slept early that night thinking how should I relate the incident to my mother.

My mother did not come that night. She came next morning. Not in my father's moped, but overlaid on a hearse. She was garlanded all over. Yes, my father's little moped could not bear the heavy load of the truck it faced. I looked at my father, he was completely dumb. I found spots of red patches on the white shroud my mother was covered.

 It was Mahadasami that afternoon. I saw from afar brides were lapping red vermillion to each other. My father also put a bright vermillion mark on my mother's overhead. Perhaps it was brighter than the red I experienced last night.

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Bio: Mrs. Parinita Mandal De, is a teacher by profession. She spent her childhood in Adra, the South Eastern Railway junction town, where she lost her mother in a road accident in her early childhood. At present she lives in Bankura district, WestBengal. She likes to spend her days in the serene hill station with her poet- painter husband Soumik Kumar De and her offsprings Adrika and Adrij. She is also fond of preparing mouthwatering experimental dishes for her family members.


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