Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Just not a Mother
I always saw her as a mother,
I repent for not seeing her any other.
She was also a girl with gusto,
Fearless fetish vivacious,
Her smile buried deep sorrows,
Her desire to live was voracious.
But why I saw only a mother?
A girl sometimes peeped through beneath her duties,
A soul eager to live
Lost in the worldly niceties.
Why didn't I see a teenager?
Fun frolic coquettish-Oh! what a pleasure
But I saw you just as a mother,
A sage, provider, giver and nothing other.
In you I wanted only affection
For the world-child love is the only perfection,
Nothing else matter,
You're a mother- nothing other.
You cared for us round the clock
Watched every step like a hawk,
But it was also undeniably true
There was a woman curled up in you.
I never knew or bothered about your wish
To express it, probably you had to be selfish,
That's what all the world want
A widow should cry with her husband's urn.
But why didn't I see?
There is a woman in front of me!
Are you just a symbol of sacrifice?
For whose vice? Why did you always tried to be nice?
You reared me with love and care
But maa, where is your share?
Oh! I forgot, you cannot have any desire
that 'll ignite the world's ire.
But, why did I fail to see
A girl and a woman in thee?
I silently followed all
As though commitment was your only call.
Why did I see you as a mother?
Nothing other, nothing other.
You are just not a 'mother' for me
A living soul with dreams--you see,
I feel it as I am a mother now
But how does it matter anyhow?
Because it's been quite long,
Since you are gone, you are gone.
Friday, August 31, 2018
I am 407/4 Pratap Lines, Jaipur Cantt
Earlier this week I was applied double coats of distemper, few furniture were replaced, couple of damp spots in my wall repaired. I can’t tell you how happy I was. I always felt cold with those damp spots in me and it also made me look dreadful and ancient.
I knew I will have a new family soon. I stopped speculating about the kind of people I would have as all these years I had seen a myriad of them. There were people who considered me as a temporary shelter and there were others who called me home. There were people who passionately decorated me, and some who just crazily hammered nails everywhere which made me look puckered than I was. For some, with heavily framed Egyptian paintings and volumes of crystal items I looked gorgeous and for others with family photographs and in an elegantly woven Persian carpet I turned out to be graceful.
But then I could hardly contain the excitement as I heard the footsteps coming towards me. Here I see them. A young officer with his new bride! The Capt wrapped his wife in his arms and walked in. Her fingers intertwined with hers, swinging back and forth. She moved around me with such childish ecstasy; I would be their first nest after marriage. Next few days saw a flurry of activities. My windows and doors were draped in new curtains, (there were huge arguments over the colour of the curtains - well well, there used to be differences in everything- from placement of the utensil rack, shape of cushions, bathroom fittings, placing the furniture, size of glasses, pattern of bed sheets and which dog breed to get!). He wanted the dominant theme of the house to be white. White bedsheets, white dining table cover, white curtains, white buckets, white tea set and even he searched for white gas burner. When she opposed vehemently he just deviated to off white and beige.
Their disagreements unlike their love, was ephemeral. In the morning when the husband left for office, she was there for a loving send off.
She endeavored her best to cut equal sizes of all vegetables in salad and even halved the grapes with such affection. With my experience I could tell that she was a novice in the kitchen. Once she placed a brinjal in the microwave oven. Later, with teary eyes she plucked out each seed from the oven as it had burst into innumerable pieces. The young man on the other hand was an expert cook. He would cook everything with dollops of cheese and butter and loved his wife more than anything in the world.
She was new to dressing up like a lady in the evening for Mess Functions or Call Ons. She had a hard time to clean up the batter from her face, her baking lessons failed , the maiden cake turned out to be hard as a cricket ball and on top of that she had invited guests at home!
Pall of gloom descended and she thought it to be the end of the world.
But again like phoenix she rose, with lot of assurance from her companion and the day ended well with laughter and banter. The guests described their own hilarious incidents about baking and cooking. The young girl felt better. Her husband wittily glanced at her.
The young officer would attaimes narrate the ways of the Army to her. Sometimes she accepted the sermons, but mostly she questioned and revolted. Why would the mandir parade be on Sundays? What is the necessity for strict Mess etiquettes and why should Tuesdays be chhole bhature days and Sundays biriyani days? She questioned about having so many unnecessary uniforms and shoes, and she for the first time came to know colour of petrol to be blue and white. To her utter disgust white, beige and green colours (even clothes other than uniform) dictated his cupboard. She frowned at the saree fetish ladies. She named Sunday as Sulkingday because her man went to office in civil dress and her worst enemy was the fauji phone. It belched out in high decibel whenever possible. And yes, she failed to understand why the call made on ‘Reporting Time’, should be holier-than-thou and that even a mellowed down sneeze (from anyone in the house) would be a criminal offence. She even scowled at the thought and questioned the valid reason behind naming nature’s call as Jungle parade. But she tied the knot not only with the man but also with his profession and she already had the Married to Olive Green book, the Bible, for civilians married into the army. Just one step left - to flip open and read.
For the past few days, I found her quite withdrawn. Attimes she would recluse in a corner, buried her head in her palms and sobbed quietly. I wanted to help but I was helpless. One evening, after being cajoled by her husband she spurted out that she was exhausted and wanted to wriggle out of ‘lady like syndrome act’, she missed being herself. She felt caged in the Cantonment and wanted a way out. She was an aspiring journalist and her aspirations were snuffed out early. Without a job she felt less empowered. She was way too vexed with the people advising her to do B.Ed and teach, or do gardening or cook new dishes and share the recipes or learn stitching. I was concerned about her and with ages behind me I wanted to tell her that with time every crease will be ironed out. It was love at first sight which brought them together and then the love seemed out of sight. The young man, seemed to be powerless against such blitzkrieg. He was visibly distressed. The only happy soul was the four month old mischievous, curious and playful Doberman pup named Ditto. He was found to be everywhere that he shouldn’t have been. From toilet paper to shoes to plants, he spared nothing. But these days even Ditto’s antics failed to lift the girl’s mood. I keep on referring her as ‘girl’ as addressing her ‘lady’ would entail undue pressure on her and expectations would surmount. Even for me. Then, why? Let time take the course. What is the hurry to make a ‘lady’?
After many such gloomy evenings one day she looked content. The man and his wife whooshed out of the door for dinner, they whispered to each other – and I was keen to know the turn of events. With series of congratulatory phone calls that followed the next day I could make out that soon there would be an addition in the family.
Still, when there was no one in the house but myself and Ditto, she would attimes embrace my brick walls and ask - Will I be a good mother? Am I being a good wife? Am I being a good army wife? I am unable to make great desserts and just clueless about rearing a baby. (Her voice would mellow down and anguish resonated – I would have to give up my career. I cannot hop to countless and remote locations and hope to make my byline on the front page of newspaper…) She became thoughtful.
I replied fondly, have faith in yourself and hold on! Did she hear? I think so, because she seemed pacified everytime after she spoke blankly to the walls. I felt part of this family.
Certain things ofcourse enraged me. Top of the list was when Ditto scratched my walls fervidly in order to dig hole. I don’t know why dogs do that! I despised it and I am sure he felt my indignation because next he did was leaving a crescent shaped mark of on my walls. Uff ! how I loathed such damp and pungent smell. More so, I still cannot fathom the correlation between a soldier and his love for dog.
A beautiful February morning was abuzz with people running helter skelter. The young man exulted and announced that he was the proud father of a baby girl. Oh! How desperately I wanted to see her and the new mother. I saw her later that day. She was adorable. She peered through her brand new eyes at what must be such a strange world after life in the womb. As she cuddled in her mother’s arms her curled pink fingers brushed my walls. I felt she thanked me for protecting her.
With untimely cries, diaper changes, doctor’s appointments, and baby’s babble –the house, rather I, felt lively as never before. Attimes I saw the baby’s mother physically exhausted coupled with sleepless nights, self –doubt, worry and new parenthood seemed a challenge. Everyone, relatives and acquaintances, advised her how to be a perfect mother and that she should follow their examples. I hollered to the self-acclaimed perfectionists – with a new baby a new mother is also born. So let them be! The house was always throbbing with people but I found her lonesome. I saw sparkle in her eyes when her neighbor came. A very loving figure in whom this girl took comfort. Perhaps in her she understood the real meaning of being part of the olive green family. You are never alone even when you think you are. Even then she would have queries about the Army life, but then it was only to understand and not revolt.
With a grin I said to myself – Time and Infantry Life are great teachers, healers and guides.
They organized a dinner to celebrate their new born. This time, I saw her preparing the list of the invitees, fixing the menu (easy yet with a twist) something she can manage, ensured she had enough serving plates and this time the sponge cake came out better than before. She fumbled less, except that she forgot to ask the guests for a second helping and also it never occurred to her to show the ‘sweetened sauf,’ at the end, but beyond that she was almost a perfect hostess.
As a soldiers life is always half packed in trunk, I knew it was about time they move on to a different place, a new house and a new life. The young officer got posting orders. He was moving to the borders. The destination of her stay for the next couple of years was unclear. They had to give away their dog as uncertainty mounted. It was difficult to take care of a baby and a dog if at all she had to fall back to her hometown. They missed him a lot. Even I felt dejected.
But one thing was clear. For next couple of years they will stay apart. In the remaining days they marveled me more. They thanked their first house and called me a part of their life.
Trunks got a new black coating, hiding the word CAPT. Instead with fresh white paint, the word MAJ showed prominence. She carefully put the belongings in designated numbers given to the trunks and meticulously mentioned every item in a list. (Here, I remembered how on the first day she came, rummaged her suitcase to take out her favorite pair of jeans!)
The truck got loaded -not only with trunks but also with memories. The officer with his wife and daughter for the last time came inside. They went to the rooms, touched me (walls) and bid adieu, with a promise to visit me sometime in future. I wanted to hold on to that moment and never let them go. But I am a fauji house and for me as they say change is the only constant thing!
Many years passed. I had so many families reside in me. But I always wondered about the young officer and his wife. Is she lady like now? How about her sponge cakes? Can she manage her life, postings, separation, home, career-all too well or whines helplessly?
Today I got my answers. It was dusk and a couple walked towards me. I am quite old now, with new construction towering over me, I could hardly see them. But the sound of the steps was familiar. Oh! how happy I was to see them again. The young officer was not so young, with gravitas in his voice he ushered his wife and the little girl to walk fast. They also had a son who clutched his mother’s hand firmly. The new born girl is a teenager now. Of course it is been thirteen long years! Children seemed to know about me, the place and Ditto! Curiosity gleamed in their eyes. They came inside and introduced themselves to the lady who opened the door. They were unexpected but welcomed guests. The mother of two shared about her stay here more than a decade ago. I listened to every word carefully. I was happy to know that she writes, takes care of the home, manages all her commitments, keeps up with erratic postings and even plays the role of both parents when her husband is in field area. I learnt that she took up teaching briefly and found it equally satisfying as journalism.
For an army wife, it dosenot take time see life in a different and new perspective. Just like tallying of the ribbons in their husbands’ crests, they become dynamic, versatile and remain unruffled even when facing formidable situations. Ask me, I know all about them.
The officer and his wife frequently looked at my walls, probably trying to find any memorabilia. She went to the terrace and touched the iron loop which was firmly drilled in the wall. It was where they attimes tied their dog when guests came. The loop was probably the only tangible thing, besides me, left of their time. Politely they took leave. The indomitable spirited girl I knew paced graciously towards the door. The confounded maverick was more resolute now. I admired her but somewhere I had started missing the wide-eyed artless new bride.
Just then, she touched my walls once more and muffled something. I felt the warmth of her palms and heart. I could not hear what she said. But I knew she whispered that she will always remember me.
I saw a lady being born but the girl is still alive in her.
The Colonel wrapped her in his arms, looked deeply in her eyes and walked away with his family.
Monday, May 14, 2018
Our children are immediately connected moments after birth! Like, the baby's aunt might yell with joy, "he bats his eyelids just like his mother!", mother in law might add to counter, "ohh! but he yawns just like my son!" And so it would continue for sometime till all his features and little antics are associated with everybody related by blood and even more, like...
- fingers resemble exactly of his grandfather ( paternal)
- but the thumb is just like his grandfather ( maternal)
- smiles like his paternal aunt
- but cries like his maternal aunt
- stairs like his uncle (paternal)
- sleeps like his uncle (maternal)
- looks like his grandmother (paternal)
- behaves like his grandmother (maternal)
It's never ending till he grows up and creates a another blueprint ( read offspring) of his own!
Well some of the similarities drawn with the baby are true, some are figment of imagination and some are forcibly attributed to establish his strong links to the family tree. But after so many years, as I see my children around I feel I am just a medium. Medium for procreation, for teachings, for life skills etc. Every body is just a medium for the next, and next will be medium for the next and so on.
We call it advancement of human race, survival of the fittest or what ever but the fact is that we are never the end product. For ages we have been the medium for the next and therefore we must give the best what we have learnt in our time with experience.
So will the last man of the human race ( if ever there is )possess all the wisdom, learning, experience and expertise of millions of years? Is there any way mediums can know about it?
Wednesday, May 9, 2018
Its the fifth dress I tried. Only to return from the trial room with a less cheerful smile added to it is a feeble voice with an unconvincing excuse to the attendant," the colour is not vibrant enough as I thought" or " the fitting is not right " or " its not exactly what I want." But secretly I wanted it, yet dubious about my figure. Of which, once I was so sure and flaunted without any prejudice, now all of a sudden I have become conscious and weary. I would rather take a dress which hides my concentrated body mass at places, basically cover myself up.
The six dress I took in the trial room. Even before wearing I already rejected it , as the suave summary dress would accentuate my hip and sleeveless means I always have to remind myself to work in the gym and the spotlight would be my arms, which reflected the image of a blunt mace. Fear of failure gripped and crippled me- just like my pins and needle moment when I kept waiting for the last tinkle of the OTG oven and prayed ardently that my chocolate cake would come out perfect. Is it always about striving for perfection in every thing?
I stood still in front of the long mirror. It was afternoon and there was no bee line in front of the trial room. Therefore I could take time than usual. My mood oscillated from being critical, pensive and then ruminative. Okay, the image in front of me shows that I am mother of two kids, it is implied that I juggle many responsibilities, it gives indication that I am irregular at exercise, it also hints about my sudden chocolate craving and sweetened tea binge with my favourite jeera biscuit and it also reflected that life is like flowing waters - it goes on. Water as it flows through different land forms changes it course, colour , curves, volume and as it surges ahead it fluctuates and intensity differs. So am I.
I am living, I am flowing, I am moving ahead and therefore the course and curves have changed. But I am still the same. Therefore, I halted the denunciation of my self.I thanked my body who carefully nurtured my soul for so long and more and...
I am living, I am flowing, I am moving ahead and therefore the course and curves have changed. But I am still the same. Therefore, I halted the denunciation of my self.I thanked my body who carefully nurtured my soul for so long and more and...
I billed the sixth dress.
Monday, May 7, 2018
I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. "Ten, nine, eight, seven..." and as I counted, panoramic view of life with Ditto flashed in front of my eyes. I looked in his eyes. He agreed. We understood each other. It’s a bond for over twelve years now. I touched his paw, frail with the burden of cancer, yet responded with a little tremble. “Wait for me up there…”, I whispered. There was calmness in his look.
Somehow I could pack trillion moments or more in those ten seconds. Fifteen day old puppy to a colossal black Doberman , he had been with me for so long and now ready to play and run freely up above. No leash can restrain him, no command can stop him.
Choosing euthanasia over painful death for him, was the hardest decision I ever made.
He never did any great deed, like catching thief or thwarting a bank robbery, but his every deed was great to me!
Married into the army, attimes I felt lost. I took long strolls and wandered in the cantonment. The planned shopping complex, childrens' park, swimming pool and gym seemed such a contrast to my locality in Kolkata with unwanted and loud horns of rickshaw, private bus, occasional honking of trucks and hustle bustle from the fish market in the vicinity.
Gradually I started liking the quietude of the cantt. I had many queries regarding my new life. Well, I chose to observe and learn, yet I needed to unwind. I wanted to share my thoughts, woos and worries, constantly. But with no avail, I got perturbed more until one day when a family friend gifted me the little black dog.
A pet lover to the core of the heart yet I had my reservations, because a dog meant a minimum ten year commitment. With constant shiftings of army life, why to tangle another life. But my anxieties assuaged, when I looked into his eyes. “Ditto”, I called, and he snuggled in my arms. And life took a turn.
I was thinking less about my new life. I was in toes always, judging his next chewable prospect and trying to outsmart Ditto. He was a hyperactive young dog, chewing all – from socks, brand new shoes, to worn out mops. But his favorite was toilet cleaning brush and any mobile charger. Attimes I thought God must have sent him to destroy all lines of modern communications! Sometimes, I regretted the decision of getting a dog. Like, one day, when I was busy writing my blog, I heard a squeaking sound. Atfirst I ignored, but then curiosity and suspicion regarding Ditto’s uncanny silence got better of me. I scurried to the drawing room, from where the noise came. To my horror I found Ditto completely turned white. Not a spot of black was left and it was all due to the flour! The packet was ripped open and the floor was slippery white. Aaaaaaghhhh…I cried out. It was out of sheer anger. Ditto was petrified. It was not due to my anger but his own reflection in the mirror scared him! Later when I thought of the episode, I found it amusing!
When my daughter was born, I was apprehensive of his reaction to the new member of the house. I heard stories of dogs getting jealous and that they harmed the infant in some cases. When I came back from the hospital, with my daughter Juhi in my arms, Ditto greeted us. He jumped once to have a closer look at the baby. I was a little scared. But then I sat down, and he slowly came to me. He licked her feet. Then, got up and brought his chewable bone (his most favorite stuff) and placed beside my daughter’s head. I patted him gently and I knew, he would protect my girl, always. I was right. He was her play mate. But yes, attimes, tried to eat her porridge and had an added attraction to her feeding bottle, too! He hated the day when Juhi would get her vaccinations. She would be cranky and Ditto would stay right beside her all night, refused to go his kennel. When Juhi started going to play school, Ditto was particularly unhappy. He missed her and stood near the door till she got back. He received her with such gusto, that atimes she would loose balance and fall!
Ditto greeted my son, with equal love and affection. He was happy to get another playmate. By that time we have moved around seven places, and Ditto adjusted to every place with ease. Yes, I tried to follow him. Pets teach us a lot, only we have to silently get connected to understand it! It was a pleasure to watch Ditto and my children play together. He was particularly careful about my son, Jai. Even during snatching the ball games , he left the ball when Jai crawled towards him! When I got tired managing two rambunctious children, I sat down with Ditto and shared my worries. He listened. He got used to them for long!
Another day, I remember, Ditto’s non stop barking alarmed every body in the quiet Army Mess in Poonch. He would not stop for anything. He seemed to get off his leash and became very aggressive. Within minutes I got the news , that my son banged his head while playing in the nearby park and was bleeding. I rushed to the park, which was just about 500 meters away. To my surprise , Ditto already, broke off his leash and was by Jai’s side. My son, was bleeding, but his fear was much alleviated by Ditto’s presence. He followed Jai to the Field Hospital about 3 kms and back.
Gradually, Ditto became less active. Recoiled more in the house, by the fireplace, refused to go out and play with the kids. His look disturbed me. He wanted to say something. Even when my husband came back from office, he reluctantly looked or stood up. Noticing a lump on his neck, I took him to a Vet Dr. Jagdish. The Vet, told me he feared cancer, but would only confirm after the scan. He called me the next day confirming our worst fears. Ditto’s days were numbered. The metastasis gripped his whole body, but being a brave dog, he only recently showed signs of discomfiture. The Vet praised his grit and determination. He had to undergo a series of tests and he went with me to the hospital with slow and steady strides. He stopped attimes and gasped for breath. We walked all through the way, paused in between, looked at each other and perhaps tried to understand everyword.
Children, cared for him. They knew his time was limited. They hugged him often gently, cautious not to hurt him. One day, I was as usually brushing him, when he looked at me for long. I saw tears in his eyes. I watched how he dealt with pain, but at that moment I felt the pain. I had to free him and he wanted so. I discussed it with my husband and he favoured the decision. Now the biggest worry was how to break the news to my children. Ditto had been their part of Fairy Tale. Ditto was their pride and a most faithful friend always waiting eagerly at home. My son would threaten his friends after a quarrel that he would get Ditto to settle the matter. Well, eventually he had the privilege and always sorted the matter in the field. So, Ditto always played an important role. My daughter would spend hours with him specially when she got upset. Whether being berated by us or ignored by her friends, she would seek solace in Ditto’s company. Ditto stored many secrets!
I consulted the Vet and he promptly agreed stating that euthanasia would be the best decision, to relieve Ditto from the excruciating pain. He also told me to tell the children the truth about the condition of Ditto and the measure that had to be taken. The same evening, I asked the children to sit by Ditto. He was his happiest best, his expressions changed for good. He rested his head on my daughter’s lap. I told them the truth. I mentioned them about the decision. I fully expected the barrage of questions, and howling cries. But there wasn’t any. Tears rolled down my daughter’s eyes. My son asked, if Ditto would suffer in Heaven. When I said , that there was no pain in Heaven, he was relieved. They loved him so much that, they were ready to let him go. Next day, when they were going to school, it was the longest good bye ever. Ditto stared as long as they were in sight, and even after that.
The pungent smell of various medicines and sound of heavy breath of my pawed love brought me back to reality. Six, five, four, three, two, one….zero. I counted involuntarily. My beautiful friend, lay still. There was not an iota of pain. Our family became incomplete but he would compensate by being the first one to greet us in Heaven.
By the time I hope he would get free space to play, and lots of goodies to chew!
Click Here for another story on four legged friend.
It was the first thought that came to her as she woke up. He was gone. And, soon, this bedroom, the house in whose eastern corner it sat, and the tiny garden outside with its gnarled old red hibiscus and the half grown mango tree they had planted together, all those would be gone as well. It was the strangest feeling ever. Hanorah, never knew to stay without Francis. All she knew that her wait would be over soon.
Born in a typical Irish family in Wicklow, Hanorah O’Brien, youngest of the three O’Brien sisters was quintessentially beautiful and witty. Hanorah, loved music, reading and adventure. Though in Wiclow she was unable to satiate her desire to venture further in the Irish coastline for sheer thrill , she harboured the same for someday. Her sisters Betty, and Mary, preferred knitting and discussing about prospects of a handsome groom for themselves. But the sisters bonded very well. Martin O’Brien was the owner of vast stretches of land where he mainly farmed potatoes. He toiled hard outside and Elizabeth, mother of the O’Brien sisters , took care of her family. The fate of O’Brien family, like many others in Ireland changed in 1845. That time Hanorah was fifteen, and her elder sisters Betty was eighteen and Mary, was all of sweet sixteen years old. The great Potato Famine struck, and before it could take a worse turn, Martin O’Brien, sold his property or whatever he could and moved to Finsbury, near London. Hanorah, wanted to learn music but now she knew she had to take care of her family as well, because her family was going through a tough time. The famine had left Martin dejected and anxious for days. “Can we ever go back to Wiclow ?,” Hanorah, asked her mother. Elizabeth looked deeply in her youngest daughter’s eyes, perhaps gathering her words and at that moment they heard Mary’s outcry . The ladies scurried out to see Martin O’Brien fell down from the stage coach and lay motionless. He died with and carried Wicklow in his heart.
Life changed rapidly for O’Brien family. With three unmarried daughters and meager livelihood, a stark contrast from their lives in Wiclow, Elizabeth became apprehensive of future. She just wanted her daughters to be married off. When Francis Doyle, a young Lieutenant òf the British Army, expressed his desires to marry one of the O’Brien sisters, Elizabeth was gratified beyond words. The young man met the sisters at the Kennedy’s tea party and took a liking for them. But Elizabeth’s happiness was ephemeral as Francis wanted to marry Hanorah and not Betty. For the next three days Betty retired to her room and maintained an ominous silence and finally on the fourth day announced that she would never marry. “You must forgive me sister, I think it is all my fault”, Hanorah, unconditionally felt guilty and ashamed at the young man’s choice which created a chasm in her family. Betty did not take any notice of Hanorah and never spoke to her. Mary, desperately, wanted the matter to be resolved as she loved both her sisters. Elizabeth tried to convince Francis for marrying Betty but that was not to be. Secretly Francis met Hanorah, and they both started liking each other. Their marriage in 1850, was a happy union. They lived in Finsbury , near her parents’ home for few years .
Britain was in the lap of Industrial Revolution. Population boomed alarmingly, more and more towns became modern and embraced city life. Railways made headlines. But it was also the era of changes, of transformation. Britain concentrated more in colonialism.
“ Han, will you come with me?” Hanorah looked at him with surprise and expectation. “Where?”’ , Hanorah knew that coloumns of British Army was being sent to different places. Francis held her hands, drew her closer and whispered in her ear, “India”. Hanorah, though well versed in all subjects yet knew less of India, so she remained quiet. Francis sensed the same and gave her the option to stay back. The thrill of the unknown always enthralled Hanorah. More so, she wanted to be always with her dear husband. So bidding adieu to Finsbury, the Doyles sailed for India in September 1855.
As East India Company with all its might endeavored to spread its root in India, the British Residency in Lucknow stood as a sign of British power. Francis became a part of the forces in Lucknow Recidency in one of the garrison. For Hanorah, she instantly fell in love with India. She felt as if she was born to be a part of this place. She tried to pick up the language from the gardener, though she couldnot understand the words , she somehow tried to connect.. During the evenings , Francis and Hanorah strolled quietly in the garden. She loved her newly stitched puffed sleeved frock. She also wore crinoline and attimes preferred to dress up in knickerbockers. She became passionate about gardening . She loved the sparrows and parrots and even the buzzing of the bees made her happy. Attimes she accompanied her husband in hunting though she detested the sport. She dissuaded Francis for the same.
They socialized in the ball room and always enjoyed the pleasant evenings with Francis. But she also loved to wander in the local market, though she witnessed many eyebrows being raised. She would beat the curiosity of locals, and tried to utter a word or two, in the native language of the region. Gradually she felt accepted to a point.
She saw an old woman making pots under a shady Banyan tree at the southern most corner of the market. She pondered about speaking to her. She discussed the same with Francis, who refuted the idea. But one day, Hanorah, mustered enough courage and spoke in her broken hindi, “ aaap pottery teach kharogeh?” The old lady, in her 70’s, said, “meri naam Durgarani Devi hai, mein garaib hoon, mujhe chhor dijiye..”, the old women thinking that the firangi will take away her business and not allow to sell anymore. Hanorah stood with a surprised look. She had a pleasant disposition and the tranquility in her face assuaged the old lady, after some time.
She knew that Hanorah was not a threat. Hanorah often went to the market and tried learning to make pottery, couple of times she also invited Durgarani in the British Residency. The old lady came with her eight year old grand daughter, Sunanda. From Sunanda, Hanorah learnt to make garlands specially with morning glory flowers. Somehow Hanorah, waited and expected to see Sunanda. There was a strange yet easy bond between the two. She knew motherhood was bliss but till then couldn’t feel it.
In her letters to her mother, and sister Mary, she mentioned every detail of her life in India. Mary was married in a wealthy Welsh family and had two children. Betty, kept her promise of never marrying.
It was 1857 and many Indians were feeling that their rights were violated. She sensed the same discontented voice of Mukhtar, her gardener. Around 30th May, the condition of Lucknow became volatile. Hanorah learnt that the exile of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, annexure of British Empire in Oudh , revolt by Berjis Quadr, son of the exiled Nawab, mainly triggered massive armed unrest against the British. Hanorah, worried about the safety of her husband, of all British soldiers and somewhere she also wanted the Indians to get their right. She was caught in ambivalence. It was the night of June 4th that the Residency again shook with sounds of cannon, artillery shelling, and there was smell of gunpowder every where. Hanorah held the Bible tightly. Francis was out on duty, Hanorah waited to hear from her husband with bated breath. Women and children scuttled everywhere, worried about the present and anxious about the future. Even with tremendous effort from Sir Henry Lawrence the British forces were forced to bite dust. At that point she saw Francis, all smeared with blood standing on the other end. But there was an uncanny halo around him. He just stood there as his smile gradually faded away. Hanorah, heard some rumbling, cracking and breaking sound, but before she could react, with a loud thud a part of the parapet broke down on her. She wreathed in excruciating pain. She could only think of Francis, images of her parents and sisters and life in Wicklow flashed by. Curious little face of Sunanda glimpsed through and then she could feel nothing.
Gradually by November , the siege of Lucknow ended with efforts of Sir Collin Campbell and Union Jack ruthlessly fluttered assuring next ninety years of British dominance in Indian soil. But Francis and Hanorah, nestled where they were, untouched by every commotion around them. They were happy souls.
Its been very long, since the siege of Lucknow. Though the earlier grandeur of the Residency diminished, its glory tarnished, yet the dilapidated structures had a quaint charm. The Doyles, loved their home. Just like their love for each other, it was touched by nothing, not even death. But today, its time for Francis to begin again. They knew it was coming but could not accept it. They argued, fought and then again held each other. They never wanted to let go. But it was Divine intervention and the cycle of life must go on. So Francis was gone. He faded into oblivion.
It had been 166 years of togetherness until the time came for Francis to be reborn. Hanorah, his beloved had to wait for her turn. She knew it would soon come.
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