Bamboo Flower, a novel (Part-7)
“Bamboo Flower”, serialized here, is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
continued from last Sunday
It did not help to hide from everybody, thought Thoibi then, she remembered. Even as she remembered those days, she could still sense the helplessness for by then she was certain that she was carrying and that the father to be was not to be seen. He had told her that he would return after that trip he undertook about two months ago. It was with this in her mind did she narrate her story to her friend. When she told Bina what was going on inside her, she was still hopeful that the father to be would soon show up.
By the time she was already into the sixth month of her pregnancy, she was somehow not able to believe that he would return.
It was then Bina, who managed to speak to her father, who immediately decided to leave the village for the present town house.
She then began wondering if she was strong enough to negotiate for Rajen’s marriage up against a conservative society. There would be some mention of the father of the boy. There was of course brother Prakash to take care of many things. However, there would be a lot more that were intimate for the parent of the groom to attend. What could she do now except wait and see how things shaped up, she had thought?
She had prepared Rajen to accept the fate both of them were in during those difficult days, so she had thought. Nevertheless, she had not told him her full story. She was now determined to tell Rajen all that she could possibly narrate once he came home after his studies. She reasoned that this was to ensure that at least a part of her burden was lifted.
She told herself that Rajen was now old enough to understand. Or had she not kept the truth away from Rajen longer than necessary, she wondered. Let him know what it meant for her to conceal all this while, she justified.
Bharatileima, known to most in the neighbourhood as only Bharati, was a girl Thoibi also knew. Bharati was one of the more attractive daughters of Kshetrimayum Inderjit Singh, the rich landlord who was also into timber business.
Inderjit owned large tracts of land with his house nearer the main road and the backyards touching the rich agricultural fields at Malom in the western outskirts of Imphal in addition to many other lands and fields all over the valley. The house was about three miles away from Thoibi’s house towards the south west.
Brother Prakash and Landlord Inderjit, to persons like Thoibi who had seen them for long, were influential men and who could be of immense help to persons they patronized. It was, therefore, obvious that the two friends had thought out this possible relationship. Practical, the arrangement might appear but Thoibi still had her doubts.
After that hesitant disclosure to Thembi, it became a regular conversation between them.
‘Is Bharati the third daughter of Inderjit’s second wife?’ queried Thembi one evening.
‘I am not sure, we will ask brother Prakash soon’, replied Thoibi.
Thembi did not stop.
‘And how many wives does Inderjit have?’ she began.
‘Three or four, it must have been, now only Bharati’s mother is alive, I think with children living together. I do not of course know how many children.’ Thoibi decided to tell what she knew.
‘It will, of course be good for our Rajen to marry someone from a big family’, remarked Thembi.
This was something Thoibi had not thought about. Nevertheless, she decided to let it pass and only said, ‘I hope they are happy together. The families are so very different.’
‘Why, the girl will not have to do anything here. She can do whatever she wants to do. I will continue to do the household work.’
This was innocent Thembi, thought Thoibi. In her world, young brides only had more household work and that the adjustments the girl had to make in the new environment did not seem to cross Thembi’s mind, Thoibi could not help thinking.
‘When is our Rajen returning?’ Thembi asked. It was obvious that she was enjoying these conversations.
‘It will still, be months before he finished his exams in Delhi’, Thoibi was to reply.
Thoibi was beginning to believe that this was a proposal that was about to materialize even as it took some time to take the matter seriously when brother Prakash first mentioned. It was not that anything significant had taken place since. However, considering the relationship of Brother Prakash and Businessman Inderjit, did she begin to think that they must have discussed the issue at length. So there, she could only wait for Rajen. The good thing about her son and Bharati was that they knew each other and from all appearances, they seemed to like one another.
Then, she was telling herself that she should not have any of the general expectations associated with a marriage and elaborate wedding ceremonies. She reasoned that she should be more than happy if the wedding was to take place without a hitch. All this was because of that sense of insecurity she had felt all along since the moment she became an unwed mother.
She also knew that Rajen, for sure, would find it amusing if this idea of marriage with Bharati had not ever crossed his mind. He used to tell his mother about the different ways of the household of Bharati. For one, he had mentioned that they used a lot more cooking oil and spices in their food. So, it was obvious that he had had meals at her place, Thoibi smiled silently. So why should he object to negotiations to lead to a marriage, she mused.
However, with Rajen, she could never be sure of. He could very well say that he would remain single, she grudgingly told herself. He was always unpredictable. Nevertheless, could she blame him? She was perhaps responsible for any strange behaviour her son might be having, she quietly admitted. He did not have a normal background, she almost said aloud.
There was a strong willed mother, he had a loving grandfather who provided strong emotional anchor and who took good care of his material needs. However, it was not definitely normal without the knowledge of a father even if he had died long ago.
‘Should we not start preparing for the wedding?’ Thembi again began one afternoon even though Rajen had not yet returned and would not be so at least for a month.
‘The bridal clothes need to be ordered early so that we get the very best!’ Thembi could not be stopped.
‘We can place the orders only after the formal engagement.’ Thoibi had to sober Thembi.
Thembi was disappointed but did not say as much. She picked up the broom she was using and said, ‘The broom is still useful inside, but the loose soil in the garden keeps on increasing.’
‘Why? Tomba has been working hard.’ Thoibi replied.
‘I don’t think Tomba can do much against the rats.’ Thembi stated the obvious.
to be continued…
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